Beach Blanket Perfection
The Summer Shack team shares its secret for the New England summer meal par excellence, including full recipes! Yum!
by John O’Connell
Editor’s Note: This story is adapted from a feature that ran in Boston Spirit magazine’s July/August 2012 issue.
The clambake. The epitome of the New England summer parties: elegant, casual, rustic, and romantic. We all think, at least once, “Wouldn’t it be great to throw a clambake?” and then reality settles in. With directions containing lines like “dig a two foot deep hole,” “cover each layer with seaweed,” or “keep the burlap bag moist with seawater” the project quickly becomes outside the scope of what most are willing to deal with on a given Saturday. How many in Boston own a plot of land that can spare that much square footage, let alone a shovel?
Jeff Dugan, the out Director of Operations and Partner at Jasper White’s Summer Shack, agreed to share the Summer Shack’s secrets for conquering the mighty clambake. In addition to the restaurant’s four locations throughout the greater Boston area, Summer Shack also runs the catering and snack options on Spectacle and Georges Islands in the Boston Harbor. “It’s the actual shack portion of the brand,” jokes Dugan.
The secret to a successful clambake is in the steaming. “Steaming is less messy and safer than boiling. It cooks the lobsters more gently, so the meat is more tender,” says Dugan. “If you’re near the ocean and can boil them in ocean water, by all means, do so. But boiling a lobster in tap water dilutes the flavor.” Another secret weapon is the use of an egg in the bake. If the egg is hard-boiled, the lobsters will be cooked through.
Using the freshest ingredients is key. If you don’t have a relationship with your local fishmonger, White recommends the Hingham location’s Fish Market. “We’ve got such great relationships with local fishermen,” boasts White. However, if you live in the city White recommends Yankee Lobster in South Boston or Morse Fish on Washington Street in the South End. “The product is really good,” advises White. [x]
The Indoor Clambake
8 medium new potatoes
1/4 spiced seafood salt
4 ears of corn, shucked
1.5 pounds mussels, scrubbed, debearded and rinsed
2 pounds steamers, scrubbed well
1 pound chouriço or linguiça, cut into 4 pieces
4 live lobsters, 1 to 1 1/4 pounds each
5 extra large eggs in the shell
1 lemon cut into 4 wedges
4 ounces drawn butter
Although this recipe calls for a stove top, it can be easily modified for cooking over a campfire or even on top of a grill providing it can reach and maintain the right temperature.
For equipment, you will need a 4-gallon or larger kettle with a tight-fitting lid, along with 4 mesh bags. The bags should be about 12 inches square (about the size of a 5-pound onion bag). If you can’t find mesh bags, you can improvise by bundling the clambakes in fishnet or even cheesecloth.
Boil or steam the potatoes until fully cooked, about 20 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate.
Place your large pot on the stove and add 1 inch of salted water. Use a rack so the clambakes will be elevated above the water. Cover and bring the water to a boil. When the pot fills with steam add 2 tablespoons of spiced salt. Bring back to rolling boil and cover tightly.
Divide the potatoes, corn, mussels, steamers, and sausages among the mesh bags. Place the lobsters in the bags. Right before you add the lobsters to the pot, add 1 egg to each bag.
Seal the bags, then gently place them in the pot. Place the extra egg in the center where you can easily retrieve it. Cover the pot tightly and steam the bakes for about 20 minutes. Remove the egg and crack it open—if it is hard-boiled, the clambakes are cooked. Reserve broth from pot.
Put each bag on a large plate and use a knife or scissors to cut it open in the center. Spread out the contents and sprinkle with 2 tablespoons spiced salt. Serve with lemon wedges and drawn butter and reserved broth in separate cups.
Spiced Seafood Salt
2 T fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 T finely grated lemon zest
1/2 cup kosher salt
2 T brown sugar
1 T cracked black pepper
1/2 t cayenne pepper
2 T sweet Hungarian paprika
1 T fennel seeds or finely chopped
1 T dried dillweed
1 T granulated garlic (optional)
Let thyme and lemon zest sit out on paper towel for 30 minutes, allowing them to blend better with dried ingredients.
Transfer all ingredients to a small bowl and mix will.
Place mixture in an air-tight container and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.
2 T (1 ounce) unsalted butter per person
Kosher or sea salt
Place the butter in a small pot and place over medium heat, stirring often as it melts. Before the butter comes to a boil, season with salt to taste. Keep stirring until the butter boils. It should be cloudy, almost emulsified. Divide among small bowls and serve immediately.
Creamy Cape Cod Clam Chowder
10 pounds small quahogs or large cherrystone clams
6 cups water
4 ounces meaty salt pork, rind removed and cut into small dice
2 T unsalted butter
2 medium yellows, cut into 1/2 inch dice
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, cut into 1/3-inch dice
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves removed and chopped (1 T)
2 lbs Yukon Gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 -3/4 dice
2 cups heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
Kosher or sea salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
Make the chowder at least an hour before it is served. It can be made up to two days in advance. Reheat it slowly, never let it boil.
Scrub the clams and rinse well. Place them in a large pot, add the water, cover, on high heat. Once a little steam escapes from the pot, let the clams cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove the lid and quickly move the clams around so they will cook evenly and re-cover, cooking for 5 minutes more, or until the clams open.
Pour off the broth and reserve. After the broth has settled, strain it leaving the bottom 1/2 inch containing sediment. You should have about 4 cups. Remove the clams from the shells, place the meat in a bowl and refrigerate until cold.
Dice the clams into small pieces. Cover and refrigerate.
Rinse and dry the pot and place on low heat. Brown the salt pork until crispy. Add the butter, onions, garlic, celery, thyme and bay leaf and sauté, stirring occasionally until the onions are softened but not browned.
Add the potatoes and 4 cups clam broth. Broth should just barely cover the potatoes; add more broth or water if necessary. Turn the heat to high and cover, boiling vigorously for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are soft on the outside, but still firm in the center. Smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot and stir into the chowder to lightly thicken it.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the cream and diced clams. Season with black pepper. You may not need to add salt; the clams usually add enough of their own. If you are serving the chowder within the hour, let it rest to cure. Otherwise, let cool and refrigerate.
Be Good to Yourself Lemonade
Combine premium vodka, 3 lemon wedges squeezed, and a packet of Splenda, over ice. Top off with sparkling water.
Back Bay, Dedham, Cambridge, Hingham and Mohegan Sun
Spectacle Island Sunset Cruise and Clambake
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