Preparing Soft-Shell Clams for Steaming

by Elizabeth Gawthrop Riely

Soft-shell clams tend to be sandier than hard-shells because the shell is open. One way to get rid of the sand is to soak the clams overnight in salted water (1 cup per 3 quarts), but I never seem to have the space or, more likely, the time. Instead, I suggest that you rinse and brush them. Discard any with broken shells or siphons that don’t pull in at all when touched.

Pile the clams in a large pot with no more than an inch of water in the bottom, perhaps a few sprigs of parsley, sliced clove of garlic and strip of lemon zest. Cover tightly and bring the water to a boil. Steam for 10 to 15 minutes, until they open (discard any that refuse to open).

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Remove the clams for serving without stirring up the pot. Let the contents of the pot settle a bit, then slowly, carefully, pour off most of the liquid, leaving the sand in the bottom—err on the side of caution. Steamed clams produce lots of broth or juice, which is full of the flavor of the sea. Save leftover broth in the freezer, as stock for a seafood dish for another time.

These simple steamed clams are hard to improve upon on a hot summer day, to share with close friends and family, with newspaper as tablecloth and cold beer or chilled white wine.

Serve the clams in wide soup dishes with some of the clam juice in cups for rinsing off any grains of sand as well as moistening. If you wish, serve with melted butter too, along with crusty white bread to soak up the juices.