When we travel on the coast, we usually end up eating some sort of seafood every night. The fish, shrimp, and crab are always so fresh; when you are right next to the sea, it just seems like the perfect meal. My two favorite dishes are crab cakes and a big pot of steamed mussels and clams in white wine.
We just got back from a mini-vacay on the California Coast, and I had either steamed mussels or steamed clams every night!
If you get a chance to take the drive down California’s Highway 1 – stop in at Flaherty’s and make sure to order these with your meal.
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But I can’t drive over to Carmel every time I want this tasty dish. That’s why I was delighted to discover how easy it is to prepare steamed mussels and clams at home! When you steam these bi-valves with shallots, garlic, butter, and white wine, you end up with the perfect broth for these tasty morsels.
As the mussels and clams steam, they open up, and the broth gets trapped inside the shells. Then the juices combine with the steaming liquid to become a flavorful shellfish broth. Honestly, when soaked up with some good garlic bread, the resulting broth soaking is almost better than the bits and pieces of clam and mussel.
The hardest part of making this dish is finding good, fresh shellfish. Buy your clams and mussels from a trusted seafood counter. A good fishmonger will treat you right and have the freshest product.
You Have Your Mussels and Clams, Here’s How To Steam Them
Next, remember that mussels and clams are supposed to be alive when you buy them. Once you get home from the store, take shellfish out of the bag they came in to let them breathe. Place them in a bowl covered with a damp cloth and store them in the fridge. It’s best to cook the bi-valves as close to purchasing as possible, but they’ll keep this way for up to two days.
Because bi-valves are open to eat, they’re inevitably full of sand and should be encouraged to cleanse before cooking. Soaking the mussels and clams in cold saltwater. I usually soak for 20 minutes and then change the water (at least twice) to make sure the little guys are good and clean.
Look through the seafood; if you find any cracked, chipped mussels and clams, discard them. If there are any open bi-valves, tap them lightly on the counter; if they close, they are fine. If they don’t close, throw them out.
Right before you toss the bi-valves into the pot, give your mussels and clams a good scrubbing under cold running water to remove the grit that may be on their shells. Otherwise, that grit will end up in your sauce. If the mussels have “beards” (black hairlike fibers), use your thumb and forefinger to yank them off.
After steaming, if any of the mussels or clams have not opened, discard them.
If you are using wine, please use a wine you like to drink! If you’re not a wine drinker, ask a friend who is what they recommend. I generally choose a light and crisp wine, like a Sauvignon Blanc, which has citrusy, tropical notes. The alcohol from the wine cooks off as you steam the mussels and clams, but the flavor remains.
I add red pepper flakes for an extra spicy kick because hubby likes spice. But go light to start; you can always add more.
You can see I use my enameled cast iron dutch oven for this dish. I can’t believe I waited so long to gift this to myself 🙂
Finishing Off Your Steamed Mussels and Clams
Fresh cilantro or parsley and green onion as a garnish add that bit of fresh, herby flavor to the bowl of seafood and broth. And don’t forget some sliced lemons to squeeze on just before eating.
You can serve steamed mussels and clams as an appetizer course. But I usually have it as our main course along with a great salad and some crusty bread (we like garlic bread, you can never get enough garlic). This dish makes for an easy meal in summer or winter and reminds us of enjoying our days by the sea.
Clams and Mussels steamed in white wine with butter and garlic. Get extra bread to sop up all delicious juices.
- 1 Lb Clams
- 1 Lb Mussels
- 1 Cup Clam Juice or Chicken Broth
- 1 Cup White Wine
- 4 Tbl Butter
- 5 Cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/2 Cup Shallots, chopped finely
- 1 Tsp fresh Thyme Leaves
- Red Pepper Flakes to Taste
- 2 Green Onions
- 1/2 Cup Chopped Cilantro or Parsley
- Clean the clams and mussels. Place the bi-valves in a large bowl of very cold salty water. (Mix 1/3 cup of salt to 1 gallon of water) and soak for 20 minutes. Repeat this with a fresh bowl of water two more times. This will give the clams and mussels a chance to "spit" out any remaining sand they may have.
- After soaking, gently scrub each bi-valve to remove any debris and/or "beards". If any clams or mussels are open, gently tap their shell, and they should close.
- Discard any bi-valve that remains open at this time as this indicates it is dead.
- While the clams and mussels are soaking, chop the garlic and shallots and de-stem the thyme. If using dried herbs, you will need to use a bit more to achieve the same flavor.
- In a large pot or Dutch Oven, add the butter, shallots, and garlic. Cook on medium heat until the shallots are transparent and soft. You do not need to caramelize the shallots.
- Add the thyme and red pepper flakes and cook for an additional minute, then add the wine and stock. Turn up the heat and bring the contents up to a light boil.
- Add all the freshly cleaned mussels and clams to the pot, reduce the heat to a low simmer, and cover the pot and cook for about 10 minutes until all the bi-valves open.
- If any of the clams or mussels do not open, discard them.
- Top with green onion and cilantro or parsley for serving.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 543Total Fat: 19gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 7gCholesterol: 173mgSodium: 2242mgCarbohydrates: 22gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 58g
Nutritional Information is an estimate and will vary depending on the specific ingredients used