Steamed Clams in Buttery Broth...

Few things in the culinary world are as simple and delicious as steamed clams. The pan does all the work, and the clams create their own salty, buttery broth as they steam and open. This is one of my favorite dishes on earth, and it truly couldn't be easier.

In this recipe, I added a beefsteak tomato - I think it adds both acidity and sweetness, as well as integrity to the broth as the clams steam. Make sure to serve the dish with your favorite crusty bread (or spoon the clams and broth over spaghetti).

Also, I used two cast iron skillets and made two batches (I like the flavor that comes from my skillets). You can make one big batch in a heavy pot.

Steamed Clams in Buttery Broth

4 pounds hard-shelled clams (called cherrystone, little necks or steamer clams)
Kosher or coarse salt (salt with iodine will kill the clams)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (salted butter will make the dish too salty)
1/3 cup minced shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced 
1 1/2 cups vermouth or dry white wine (or beer)
1 beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges
First, clean the clams: Scrub the shells with a brush. Then, soak the clams in salt water for about 20 minutes to help them expel any sand. If you want, you can add a little cornmeal to the water -- this helps the clams purge the dark matter from their stomachs and it whitens the meat. The ratio is 1 gallon of water, 1/3 cup kosher or coarse salt and 1/4 cup cornmeal (if using). If any clams float to the top during soaking, discard them.

Melt the butter in a heavy skillet (preferably cast iron) or pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the vermouth and bring to a simmer. Add the clams and tomato and bring to a simmer. Cover and steam for 5 to 10 minutes, until shells have opened (once the shells open, remove clams -- if you overcook them, they get rubbery).
Discard any clams that don't open after all the rest have.
If desired, strain the broth through a paper-towel lined sieve to make sure you don't have any sand leftover.
Serve the clams and broth to happy faces.

Serves 4

Photo: keko64