Citizens, October has been one of my busiest months ever and your beloved Dictator has been slacking. Time to get back into my normal posting rhythm – and to celebrate, I’ll be giving you *3* recipes today!
Having gone to college in Massachusetts and lived in Connecticut for many years, I consider myself a connoisseur of the true New England clambake. The kind that involves an entire day of work amongst several dozen friends, lots of beer, incredible food and a sunset that will make you weep for its ruddy glory.
Most clambake recipes now involve a pot and an oven.
Even many dyed-in-the-wool New Englanders don’t know how to do a proper beach clambake. Few realize you need rocks – a LOT of them – to help the fire to achieve inferno-level radiant heat. Even fewer know you MUST use rockweed as the seaweed of choice. It has tiny bladders filled with seawater that pop and add steam to the cooking process.
I will show you the TRUE path to culinary glory, my Citizens!!! My version of the classic is staunchly New England, with a detour or two into California and the Pacific Northwest.
A clambake is pretty much an all-day affair, so bring along a midday snack and plenty of beverages. You will also need tons of butter, bread or rolls, salt, pepper, Tabasco and spicy mustard. For dessert, bring watermelon, cantaloupe, peaches, berries and other fresh fruits as well as homemade pies. In Maine, blueberry pie is pretty much mandatory.
Most public beaches prohibit fires, even if the clambake is on a private beach; ask the local fire, parks and health departments if any permits are required. Keep a fire extinguisher and a large bucket of seawater close by.
Avoid flooding your pit: Plan the clambake for low tide. To ensure the water table is low enough, dig a small, two-feet-deep test hole. If the hole is still dry after an hour, dig your pit.
Be sure to get the right-sized rocks: too small and they’ll lose their heat too quickly; too large, and they won’t heat through.
Don’t use just any seaweed: The pockets of water and air in rockweed create the necessary steam and flavor. Order it specifically from your fishmonger.
My recipe involves tons of fresh herbs, hot peppers and garlic, crabs (I live in California now and Dungenness crabs are fantastic!), and some Chorizo sausage as well as the classic Linguiça. My last trick – some fruitwood smoking chips for even more flavor!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Clambake
- Total Time: 0 hours
- Fire extinguisher
- 1 large bucket
- 1 or 2 full-size shovels
- 120 rocks, about the size of grapefruits
- 50 hardwood logs, each about 2 feet long and 8 inches in diameter
- Heavy-duty oven mitts
- 50 pounds rockweed
- Three 10-by-8-foot canvas tarps, soaked in water
- For the bake, making 30 servings:
- Cheesecloth (LOTS)
- 4 cups sliced fresh fennel
- 5 cups red onion, sliced
- 30 fingerling potatoes, sliced
- 30 tablespoons thin-sliced garlic
- 15 green or red jalapeño chiles, diced, seeds removed
- 15 cups chorizo sausage, sliced
- 15 cups linguica sausage, sliced
- 15 Dungeness crabs, cut in half and legs cracked
- 30 live Lobsters, 1 pound each
- 30 pounds Manila clams
- 30 eggs
- 30 ears fresh corn, shucked
- 30 cups assorted fresh herbs (try fresh thyme, parsley, rosemary, or basil)
- 15 organic heirloom tomatoes, quartered
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 8 cups Chardonnay
- 2 cups bottled clam juice
- 1 bag fruitwood smoking chips (JH prefers apple), soaked in water for at least 1 hour
- 4 loaves sourdough bread, cut in thick slices
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 30 sticks of butter, melted
- On a flat beach, dig a 6-by-4-foot pit 3 feet deep. Line the pit with 90 rocks. Dig a 2-foot-wide pit nearby, also 2 feet deep.
- Using 8 logs, build a bonfire in the large pit. Over the next hour and 45 minutes, add 6 logs to the fire every 15 minutes, building the fire outwards so that it covers the base of the pit.
- After the first 45 minutes, as the logs turn to coals, add 20 rocks to the fire. When the logs have completely turned to coals, after about 2 hours, shovel the 20 rocks to the sides. Leaving a 1-inch-thick layer of coals atop and between the rocks, shovel the rest of the coals into the smaller pit and extinguish with water. Add the wood chips to the main pit.
- Cut a double layer of cheesecloth into 30 squares to hold the food. Divide the ingredients evenly among the packets in the following order: fennel, onions, potatoes, garlic, jalapenos, sausage, Dungeness crab, lobster, Manila clams, corn, eggs, fresh herbs and tomatoes. Drizzle each with olive oil. Pull up corners of cheesecloth and tie packets securely with string.
- Wearing mitts, line the pit with a ½-inch-thick layer of rockweed.
- Put the wine and clam juice into a small heatproof container somewhere toward the middle of the food to bring more steam and flavor to the food. Place the packets of food carefully into your clambake pit in a single layer. Top the bundles with a 1-inch-thick layer of rockweed. Fold the tarps in half lengthwise to measure 5 by 8 feet. Stack them on top of the rockweed. Weight down the edges of the top-most tarp with the remaining 10 rocks to trap the steam.
- Bake for about 1 hour. When cooked, the lobsters will be bright red, the clams open, and the corn and potatoes fork-tender. Serve with melted butter. The bread is best lightly toasted over the open fire, and then rubbed with the whole cloves of peeled garlic. Garnish your bread with some chopped parsley and drizzle with olive oil.
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Category: Recipes
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