New England Clambake

This New England clambake, made with clams, lobster, Old Bay, sweet corn, and potatoes, is a summer classic. Easy to make at home. No sand or surf required.

New England Clambake

The problem with New England clambakes is that they’re exclusively available to those in New England. Until now. This spectacularly land-loving approach to a clambake works its magic in the oven instead of over a campfire yet still gets you pretty far in terms of pretending you’ve got sand between your toes. You’re on your own for the actual sand and bonfire. Originally updated August 26, 2013.Renee Schettler Rossi

New England Clambake

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 30 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 2 reviews
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Ingredients

  • 1 cup cold water
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning (homemade or store-bought)
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 pounds new potatoes, halved
  • Two (1 1/2 to 2 pound) lobsters
  • 2 dozen Manila clams
  • 4 ears fresh corn, cut into quarters
  • Small bunch tarragon or flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter (8 oz), melted
  • Crusty bread
  • 6 lemons, halved or cut into wedges

Directions

  • 1. In a ginormous stock pot, bring the water, wine, Old Bay, salt, and garlic to a boil.
  • 2. Toss the onion and potatoes in the pot, cover, and cook over medium-high heat for 15 minutes. Nestle the lobsters on top of the onion and potatoes, cover, and cook for 3 minutes. Add the clams and corn and continue to cook, still covered, for 8 to 10 minutes more. [Editor’s Note: Or, if you happen to be doing your clambake on the beach, go ahead and toss the corn and the cut lemon onto the grill rack set over the bonfire to impart a slight smokiness to the final dish.] Check to see if the clamshells have opened; if not, continue to cook until they have.
  • 3. Carefully remove the pot from the heat and drain the cooking liquid. Tip the contents of the pot onto a table lined with newspaper or butcher paper or transfer to a large platter. (If your guests can’t be trusted to be amicable about splitting the lobsters, you may wish to cut each one in half prior to serving.) Sprinkle everything with the herbs and set out small bowls of melted butter along with some crusty bread and lemon wedges. Instruct guests to discard any clams that haven’t opened. (You may wish to set out some small buckets or dishes so folks have a place to toss the spent lobster and clamshells.)

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Recipe Testers Reviews

Oh, my STARS we had fun with this New England clambake! None of us knew what a traditional clambake might look like (our cooking/testing team included a 9-year-old, our friend who’s a chef from Thailand, and me, who’s never been part of an East Coast clam event).

We started with the homemade version of Old Bay Seasoning—easy, fun, interesting, and a great project; we plan to give some as a gift. We bought fresh Manila clams at our favorite local spot (The Jolly Oyster in Ventura Beach) and ran home to prepare the feast. The entire meal was ready in less than 30 minutes. We all sat outside and—per the instructions—I dumped the meal onto newspapers. Then we had ourselves a mighty fine feast! The experience was a 10, the flavors a 9.

Now that I’m in the know, I’d include much more tarragon—many tablespoonfuls. All in all, delicious, and so much fun to serve to 2 of my most discriminating—and delightful—testers!

Such a genius alternative when cooking at the beach isn’t an option. We had a few friends over and enjoyed a warm evening and a pot of fresh shellfish in our own backyard. Small pails around the table are great to discard the shells in.

Regarding the lobster cooking time, I was skeptical and didn’t want to risk overcooking the lobster. But I added the lobster on top of the potatoes and onions about 3 minutes before scattering the clams on top, as directed. Along with littleneck and cherrystone clams, I added 2 dozen mussels. The clams and mussels were open in 8 minutes. The lobster was cooked perfectly. Split the lobsters before serving so each person will get 1/2 or serve 1 lobster per person. I feel 1 to 2 cups white wine would be quite sufficient.

I was very pleasantly surprised by this New England clambake. Instead of trying to find a lobster, we doubled the amount of clams to 4 dozen. We found extremely fresh Manila clams for this recipe. I am not sure how someone would think that 48 small clams will feed 4 to 6 people. That is beyond optimistic. There were 3 of us, and those 48 clams just upped and disappeared before we knew it.

Now, the 2 pounds of baby potatoes was a lot for the 3 of us. I can see that amount feeding 4 to 6 people. We did have some potatoes left over, as well as 3 pieces of the quartered corn. I cut the corn off of the cob, cut the potatoes into chunks, and made a very nice hash the next day. Our friend thought that sausage might be nice addition to the dish. I would think that chouriço, linguiça, or dry-cured smoked Spanish chorizo, like David uses in his http://leitesculinaria.com/35830/recipes-clams-sausage-cataplana.html would be wonderful.

I did not make my own Old Bay Seasoning. I had a sample package of Old Bay and, not being a fan of the flavors, I chose to use that instead of having even more of something that I don’t particularly like sitting around the house. I do keep trying to like the stuff, thinking that perhaps another chance would yield a different result. In this case it didn’t. I will make this dish again, but will come up with something to use in place of the Old Bay’s.

Comments

  1. You can add sausage (Linguiça is the best, but Andouille or even kolbász or any cooked or smoked sausage) cut into pieces and shrimp (Fresh raw, head on has the best flavor) and any kind of clam or mussels for additional flavor and variety. I also like to add some edible sea weed if i can get it. Your recipe is of course closer to the classic, which skips the garlic and onions but is better with them. If i am not using a spicy sausage I might throw in some hot peppers as well but i like more spice than many folks.

  2. Sounds great, but in New England (southeast coast) we call that a clam boil. An easy at-home clambake can be done in large disposable chaffing dish. Get some rock weed (a sea weed that grows at the ocean)—pick it yourself or get some from a seafood store. Poke 6 quarter-size holes in the dish, then put 1 1/2 to 2 inches rock weed in the bottom. Pile on the lobster and clams, then sausage, chourico or linguica, fish (portions of fillet in a small paper bag) if you like, onions, small potatoes and corn. Cover with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Throw it on a campfire for 45 to 60 minutes depending on the amount of food (done when the potatoes and onions are cooked). The seaweed will steam the food and give it the traditional smoky flavor of a clambake.

      1. I knew that question was coming! I lived in Fall River as a child (still live 20 minutes away). David and I exchanged a few e-mails and discovered our grandparents were from the same island in the Azores, but concluded we were no relation.

        1. Thanks for indulging me, Scott. It’s nice to know others who come from the same part of the world, though. I mean, I’m German so not that I would know, but I mean, for you and David. Anyways, thanks again and come back to the site again! Love to hear which recipes you try…

  3. Recipe sounds great! Pic shows food that has spent some time over fire (grill?) but recipe is all about boiling? Why the diff?

    1. Harold, that’s a darn good question. I can’t exactly answer that. By way of explanation, though not excuse, we are granted permission to post recipes and their accompanying photos from cookbooks. We test the recipes, and then the ones that make us go wobbly in the knees end up on the site. But here’s the thing—sometimes the photos that appear in the book don’t exactly match the recipe in the book. Maybe there’s some scallion sprinkled on for garnish so something doesn’t seem so brown. Maybe it’s a butterflied chicken and not pieces of chicken. There are countless examples of how food stylists tend to veer off the recipe to make the photo look “better,” and I could go on citing example after example from my years in the biz. My hunch is that either the stylist felt the grill marks lent that authentic clambake touch to the photo or maybe at the stage at which the photo was taken this was a recipe for a grilled clambake. At any rate, if someone wanted to grill the corn and the lobster instead of boil them, one certainly could, although I personally think that would be a mistake as you’d lose the subtle sweetness they otherwise impart to the rest of the clambake. Or boil. Or whatever. Sorry to have perpetuated a falsehood, but I do hope you try the recipe—boiled, thank you very much—as we really, really enjoyed it.

      1. Great recipe! Have used before and will use again, next month for my birthday. But you shouldn’t use a pic with charred pieces if recipe doesn’t call for it. Thanks for the post.

        1. So glad you love this recipe as much as we do, E.F. Trujillo. And yes, you are absolutely correct on the lack of charring in the recipe. The trick is that we are granted permission to use the photo from the cookbook that accompanies a recipe and sometimes, as in this photo, food stylists go rogue. We try to avoid using recipes in which this happens but sometimes the recipe is just too spectacular to not share.

  4. Question, if I am increasing the amount of lobsters and clams should I increase the amount of water/wine?

    Have done this recipe in the past and love it!!!

    1. Hey Jane, glad to hear you love this easy recipe as much as we do! It’s pretty forgiving in terms of amounts. If you toss in one more lobster or 1/2 pound clams then the same amount of liquid should be fine since it’s the steam that cooks the seafood. But if you add more seafood than that then yes, I’d increase the water/wine proportionately.

  5. My friends and I were not in the mood to roast a turkey this Thanksgiving or to cook all the different foods and make the traditional huge mess. The idea of a New England clambake stayed within the parameter of a “Pilgrim” meal (at least New England!) and only one pot. This recipe was wonderful and incredibly easy to do. Just prep everything first, dump it in the pot according to the timing, and presto, a true feast. Thank you, David, we all loved it. BTW, we substituted lobster tails for whole lobsters and it turned out perfectly.

    1. David, I’m delighted that you took a nontraditional approach to the holiday! And you are more than welcome, sir. Can’t wait to see what you all do for Christmas!

    1. Francis, excellent question. The stylist for the photo shoot took a little liberty with the recipe and it as styled as if you were actually doing this clambake on the beach, as some folks like to simply toss the corn and lemon on the grill rack over the bonfire to impart a slight smokiness to the clambake. It’s just as lovely—-and less fussy—-to toss everything in a pot.

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