Steamed Clams with Browned Butter
Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a main dish
My father introduced me to steamed clams when I was quite young. He loved them and so do I. There was a small neighborhood restaurant he would take me to and we would each have a couple dozen clams before dinner. I have no idea what I used to order for dinner, but I sure remember those delicious clams. Plan on one dozen clams per person as an appetizer or at least 2 dozen as a main course. However, if I am one of the guests, buy extra. See the notes below for important storage tips.
- 4 dozen small clams, such as littlenecks
- 8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, preferably unsalted
Scrub the clams with a brush under cold running water. If any are open, tap the shell. If it starts to close, it is alive. If it does not move, it is dead and must be thrown out. Put about 1-inch of water in a pot large enough to hold and stir the clams. Bring to a boil over high heat. Add the clams, reduce heat to medium and cover. Cook until most of the clams are open, 3 to 5 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the open clams to a large bowl and continue to steam the others for a few minutes until they open. Any that do not open must be discarded.
Meanwhile, place the butter in a small saucepan and cook, stirring often, over medium heat until nicely browned, being careful not to burn. Divide the hot butter into 4 butter warmers or small ramekins. Divide the clams into 4 bowls or plates. Place the large bowl in the center of the table to be used for the empty shells. Dip the clams in the butter and watch them disappear.
Notes: This is an ample amount of butter, but that is because you need an amount in each warmer that is deep enough to dip the clams. You certainly can use half the amount. Clams should be used the day of purchase. Store them in a bowl in the refrigerator. Do not keep them in water. Do not place them in closed plastic as they must have air to stay alive. Dead raw clams deteriorate very quickly, which is why they must be discarded as noted above.