Our family has a bit of a flair for the dramatic, which, of course, extends into the cooking and entertaining realm. These grilled little neck clams are one such extension. Consequently, they make a great drama-heavy dinner party appetizer.
I will say that we are all for doing clams the classic way -- steamed in a brothy mixture stovetop. But that just doesn't have the same guest appeal as these hot grilled mollusks drowned at the last minute in an oil, lemon and red pepper concoction. These babies often don't even hit the weekend table -- sometimes going straight from the grill to our guest's mouths!
I believe this recipe first came to be while we were vacationing on Cape Cod with friends. We'd all become a tad bit obsessed with the incredibly fresh littlenecks that were abundant at the fish market in Truro. Having already enjoyed clams the old fashioned way, we were looking for an alternative clam recipe so we invented one! My husband and I took off in a new direction using some of the same tried and true ingredients, but with a new twist on the preparation technique. Basically, we grilled the clams, then dowsed them with an olive oil concoction while still on the grill, creating quite a fire flair up!
They are now an official appetizer in the rotation.
Now admittedly, it's December. Standing grill side is not exactly what I wanted to do last night. My husband, who took the pictures in this blog post, shivered outside, cooking them on the grill and brought them indoors to be devoured.
So here is the step-by-step guide to making these littlenecks any time of year. For step by step pictures, visit weekend table.
First, you'll want to scrub the clams of all sand and silt and then soak them in lemon and garlic water for roughly an hour. This soaking, told to us by the fishmongers on Cape Cod, allegedly allows the clams to clean all the silt out so you don't get a crunchy, sandy clam once they are cooked. Scrubbing off the sand and silt is important, but we're not sure the soaking step matters all that much.
Next, make your marinade. It's easy. About 1/2 cup of oil, the juice of one half lemon and 1 tsp of red pepper flakes.
Time to get grilling. Set your grill to high and let it heat up. Place the clams on the grill so that they are lying on one side (as pictured), as opposed to pointing up.
Close the lid, peaking after about 3 minutes. There will probably be one open. Continue to cook for another couple of minutes, lid closed, until all of the clams have opened.
Now the key here is that if a clam or two hasn't opened after about six minutes, chances are it won't. Do not take it upon yourself to pry it open. That is a clam that might make you sick. Just pitch it.
Now, the moment a clam opens you want to splash its insides with the marinade sauce. This adds to the drama of any onlookers because there is inevitably a fire that flairs up as the oil drips through to the grill. It's quite reminiscent of a Hibachi restaurant. We like to use a silicone brush that does a good job of getting the marinade into the little clam shell quite nicely.
As soon as the fire subsides, take the clams off and serve them pretty quickly, which usually isn't a problem :)
Grilled Littleneck Clams
Recipe Type: Starter
Author: Julie du Pont
Prep time: 1 hour
Cook time: 5 mins
Total time: 1 hour 5 mins
Grilled littlenecks with a little kick!
- 1 dozen littleneck clams
- 1- 1.5 quart of water
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 lemon, cut into slices
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 1/2 lemon, juiced (approximately 1 tbsp)
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- Fill a bowl with water and crushed garlic.
- Squeeze half a lemon into the water and add clams, submerging them. Let sit for 1 hour.
- Mix lemon juice, olive oil and red pepper flakes in a small bowl.
- Light gas grill on high heat.
- Place clams on grill flat and grill for 5-6 minutes with grill lid down until clams open. Discard any unopened clams.
- Brush opened clams with olive oil mixture. When oil fire subsides, remove from grill and serve immediately.