Out east on Long Island, where I’m spending a little down time, there’s no shortage of fishmongers. You can find a few in nearly every town.
Interestingly, on the North Fork, fish shops limit their stock to local catches and shellfish. On the South Fork, in the Hamptons, most shops catering to summer tourists take a broader approach, also offering rib-eye steaks and New York strip steaks, farmed salmon and thawed, frozen shrimp. But, for me, the bounty from local waters is too good to ignore: live lobsters, wild striped bass, swordfish, scallops, mussels or clams.
Especially those clams. There’s nothing easier than steaming a big potful of clams. To say they practically cook themselves is perhaps a slight exaggeration. Yet if your fish cooking skills are wanting, know this: Making clams really is dead simple.
Once you buy your clams, take them home and give them a good scrub to get rid of stubborn sand and muck (though, in truth, most clams are relatively muck-free). If you’re concerned about sand, soak them in salted water for an hour, then rinse them with cold tap water. Littleneck clams are what you want, or slightly larger cherrystones, if you’re on the East Coast. Out West, choose farmed Manila clams.
Throw them in a pot, splash in a little wine, clamp on the lid and turn the heat to a full boil. You’ll have delicious steamed clams in no time at all.
A pot of steamed clams produces a surprising amount of broth; the juices just burst forth. If, however, like me, you’d like your clams extra brothy, add a full cup of wine and another cup of chicken or fish stock. For extra flavor, I also like to add scallions, garlic and chopped fresh green chiles. Once the clams have opened and are ready to ladle into bowls, I toss in a handful of parsley, cilantro and basil.
A big bowl of brothy clams cries out for sopping. A crusty loaf will do, but I usually favor a toasted, split baguette, rubbed with a garlic clove and drizzled with olive oil.