Summer in a seashell: Beer Clams

I grew up going to the Jersey shore every summer and with stories of my Father’s childhood at the beach. We would always dig for clams as the tide went out at sunset. I was not a fan of eating seafood then–but I loved the thrill of finding a clam under the sand. It was magical.

Now I adore seafood. Clams remind me of summers at the beach–like last year’s family vacation with our close friends. We went to Ocean City and had an amazing time. My favorite meal: the night we got steamed clams and other yummy seafood takeout and ate it on the deck of our rental home. Fresh steamed clams taste of the beach; steam them in beer and they are summer in seashell.
Clams are so super easy to make and the final product is awesome. My husband is firm believer that everything is better with beer. I ignored my normal inclination to use white wine and tossed in a can of Yuengling lager instead.
You can pick up fresh clams at your grocery store or local seafood market. Try to avoid buying a pre-bagged batch–instead ask for a fresh bag (that way they can sort through the batch for you, making sure all the clams you get are good). Make sure the clams can breathe-ensure the plastic bag is open at the top. Pop the clams in your refrigerator until you are ready to steam.
I made 3 dozen clams for two of us and it was plenty. However the broth makes enough to steam about 6 dozen clams. Pick little neck or cherrystone clams–the smaller clams are more tender.
The goods:
6 dozen cherrystone or little neck clams (or less, depending on your crew)
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 of a small sweet onion, chopped
Handful (like 5 or 6) cherry tomatoes, chopped
Handful of fresh parsley (like 5 springs, coarsely chopped)
1 bottle of Yuengling lager
1 baguette
1 stick of unsalted butter, melted

The work:
1. Place the clams in a bowl of cold water. Under running water, use a brush or a bar mop to scrub the grit of each clam. Place cleaned clams in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2. Swirl some olive oil in a heavy duty pot. I used my cast iron dutch oven. You can use anything with a lid-a skillet, a pasta pot, whatever you have-it will work. Heat the olive oil on medium heat.
3. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes to the heated oil. Stir constantly until fragrant and to avoid burning–about 2 minutes. Add the onion and tomatoes. Stir and cook for another 1 minute.
4. Add the parsley and stir. Then de-glaze the pan with the bottle of beer. Turn the heat up and put the lid on the pot.
5. Once the broth is boiling, turn down the heat to medium.
6. Add your clams, one at a time, making a single layer of clams. Put the lid on. Let them steam, maybe about 5 minutes. As the clams open up completely, transfer from the pot with a slotted spoon to a serving platter and cover with foil. If you leave the cooked clams in too long, they become tough and overcooked.
7. Add more raw clams as you remove the cooked ones. Serve with melted butter and excess broth on the side (for dipping your fresh baguette!)