These Champagne butter clams with sourdough toast are an elegant meal of fresh clams that are simmered in sparkling wine and roasted garlic butter and served with crisp, garlicky toasted sourdough slices for dipping. This meal is every bit as impressive as what you’ll find at a fancy restaurant.
Clams are often done the disservice of being overcooked and rubbery, to the point that most people wouldn’t know a good clam if you threw one in their mouths. They should be soft and taste like the ocean, with their brine allowed to mingle with butter, champagne, and herbs for an indulgent sopping-up sauce. There’s really nothing better to enjoy with a glass of wine.–John Kanell
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Champagne Clam FAQs
How do I choose the freshest clams?
Always look for clams with closed shells when buying live, and always buy from a licensed and reputable supplier. Fresh clams (and other shellfish, for that matter) should have a “Harvested in the USA” label, and the supplier/fishmonger should be able to tell you exactly when and where they were harvested.
If the shell is open slightly, give it a little tap. The clam should close. If it doesn’t, the clam has died and there could be bacteria present – so it’s best practice to throw those away.
You may notice that there’s a bit of dirt and sand on your clams. No worries at all, the muck around it actually helps keep the clam moist until you’re ready to use them. Just rinse off the dirt before cooking.
How long will fresh clams last in the fridge before they need to be cooked?
Fresh clams should keep in the fridge for a couple of days. Store them in a container with a moist paper towel over the top. You’ll need to check on your clams to make sure they’re all still closed and alive (chuck any that have died) and replace that paper towel daily – but we don’t recommend keeping live clams in the fridge for more than 2 to 3 days.
How many clams should I serve per person if I am making this dish as an appetizer?
We recommend figuring on about 1/2 pound of clams per person if serving this as an appetizer – so the recipe, as written, will serve 8. We’d probably double up on the garlic toasts though.
Champagne Butter Clams with Sourdough Toast
- 1 whole garlic head
- 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt plus more as needed
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more as needed
- 4 pounds littleneck clams scrubbed
- 2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter softened
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh tender herb leaves such as thyme, parsley, and chives, plus more for garnish
- 8 slices sourdough bread
- 1 cup Champagne or any dry sparkling white wine
- Flaky sea salt for serving
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175°C).
- Trim about 1/4-inch (6-mm) from the top of the head of garlic so all the cloves are exposed. Place the garlic on a small piece of aluminum foil, drizzle with the olive oil, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Wrap the garlic in the foil, set on a baking sheet, and bake until the garlic is tender, about 40 minutes. Set the foil packet aside until it’s just cool enough to handle, then unwrap the garlic head and let it cool completely.
- In a large bowl, combine the clams and enough cold water to cover. Let them stand for 20 minutes, drain in a colander, and rinse again.
- Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves into a medium bowl and mash them with a fork until mostly smooth. Add the butter, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and mixed fresh herbs and stir until smooth and combined.
- Preheat the oven to high broil (500ºF | 260°C).
- Arrange the bread slices in a single layer on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Spread half of the garlic herb butter on the bread slices. Broil until golden brown, 2 to 4 minutes.
- Plop the remaining garlic herb butter in a large Dutch oven and melt over medium heat. Add the drained clams and champagne. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until all the clams are open, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the clams to a deep rimmed platter or individual serving bowls, discarding any unopened clams.
- Ladle the cooking liquid over the clams, being careful to leave any grit at the bottom of the pan.
- Sprinkle with additional fresh herbs and flaky salt and serve with the sourdough toasts and lemon wedges. (If you’re not serving the clams immediately, cover the platter with foil to keep warm and garnish just before serving.)
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
I love clams, but rarely make them because my husband is anti-shellfish. So while he was away, I had my chance to gleefully indulge myself and make the champagne butter clams.
Even if you aren’t a clam-lover, the garlic bread recipe is the best I’ve ever made. The clams were tender and inviting, and the steaming liquid of Cava, herbs, and butter all but begged to be sopped up by the incredibly delicious garlicky sourdough toast. This buttery clam recipe is a keeper.
I used Cava as my sparkling wine, along with herbs snipped from my garden: parsley, thyme, and chives. Not wanting to waste a mostly full bottle of sparkling wine, I learned via a web search that you can freeze it in cubes for later use, which I will certainly be doing.
Served with some velvety smooth Vichyssoise and some sliced Iberian chorizo.
These garlic butter clams were a restaurant-quality meal! The roasted garlic and herb butter impart so much flavor to the toast and the clams.
Do not skip the sourdough toast with this dish. The savory roasted garlic and slight tang from the sourdough is an amazing combination and is perfect with the clams (and perfect for sopping up the cooking liquid).
The clams themselves are super flavorful, and light, but filling. I served this with a side of roasted asparagus and a bottle of Gavi. I will definitely be making this again.
I think this would be great with pasta or a really good smoked sausage on the side. Any light crisp white wine is perfect with this. The dish looked just like the photo (unfortunately we annihilated it before I remembered to get a photo).
This garlic champagne butter clam dinner couldn’t be more delicious and elegant if it tried. It’s so sophisticated in its presentation, and yet completely unfussy and comforting at the same time. Absolutely a recipe I will keep in my back pocket and come back to for years to come for simple elevated weeknight dinners, date nights, and dinner parties alike.
The balance in the flavor of the broth created by the garlic, herbs, champagne, butter, and lemon simply sings and the briny clams are perfectly paired. I love that the garlic butter is used for the bread and the clams as it just makes it all so streamlined, and you’ll be happy to have lots of the bread on hand to soak up the broth.
We really liked this buttery clam dish. It felt like something we had in France, with the champagne, butter, and herbs.
Our favorite part is the roasted garlic. We started using roasted garlic with linguine and clams after having it in Italy – so worth the time to roast the garlic, and it can be done ahead of time. Roast extra and use it in other dishes!
This was a light dinner, and quick and easy enough to make as a delicious starter, too. We enjoyed the leftover champagne with the dish. This would work with white wine also—that’s what we usually use, but the champagne added a delicate flavor that is refreshing, especially in summer. It was a nice change!
And you can’t beat the delicious garlic herb toast. Two sticks of butter seem like a lot, and I think you could reduce the butter and the dish would be just as delicious.
The completed Champagne butter clams with sourdough toast were worth well more than the effort needed to make it! We really enjoyed the flavor and texture of the clams, and the broth was very flavorful and made for great dipping for the sourdough toast.
The roasted garlic adds a heady dimension to the full dish, and I much preferred this to the usual heavy, pungent garlic component of most clam sauce recipes. The clams were indeed tender and flavorful as advertised. We served the champagne clams over linguine (because linguine and clam sauce!). Would definitely make it again.
Originally published October 5, 2022