Cherrystone clams are medium-large hard clams that are traditionally served raw but can also be steamed. There are many different recipes that use cherrystone clams, but the most basic (and typical) New England-style dish is steamed clams with butter. It is simple to make, but does take several hours to prepare and cook. Steamed cherrystone clams are best when caught fresh and are usually enjoyed during the summer months. This versatile dish goes well with other seafood or shellfish recipes, as well as with recipes involving meat or vegetables.
Preparing and Steaming Cherrystone Clams
Clean your clams thoroughly. The FDA recommends that you soak steamer clams for several hours in seawater (or 1/3 cup coarse kosher salt and 1 gallon water) with 1 cup of cornmeal added to it. Make sure to use kosher or sea salt instead of regular salt; the iodine in table salt will kill the clams before they are boiled.
Run cold water over the clams and scrub with a vegetable brush so that all the sand is washed away.
Melt the 3 Tbsp. of butter in a large kettle and saute the onion and garlic in it until soft. Pour in the white wine, add the pepper flakes, and bring the broth to a slow boil. Then add clams. Cover the kettle with its lid and steam over low heat for about 5 to 10 minutes. Take off heat just as the clams open; overcooking clams will result in them becoming tough and rubbery.
As an alternative to wine, water can be used to boil the clams. If substituting water, add enough water to a pan to just cover the bottom 1/4 inch and bring to a boil.
Use your tongs to remove the clams from the kettle and into individual soup bowls.
Pour the broth left in the kettle through a cheesecloth-lined strainer to remove any sand. The broth can either be used to aid in cleaning the clam of sand, to dunk the french bread in or to drink separately. Along with the broth and french bread, serve the clams with individual cups of melted butter for dunking.
If the shells of the live clams are open, tap on shell. Throw away the clam if the shell does not close.
It is important to used unsalted butter when steaming clams or your clams will taste too salty.
A serving size (per person) is usually about 1 to 2 pounds of steamed clams, and there are approximately 12 to 15 clams per pound.
Be thorough when cleaning your clams. Improperly cleaned clams can result in sand in your finished meal. Also be sure that your clams are live before they are boiled and that they are cooked properly. Eating improperly cooked clams can result in food poisoning.