How to Cook Clams & Mussels Like a Pro
On a chilly autumn day in Connecticut, steamed mussels or clams are the perfect meal to warm you up. You do not have to be a professional chef to make a perfect piping hot bowl of these shellfish. Even culinary novices can master this recipe.
Prepping Mussels & Clams
The process for washing mussels and clams takes longer than the cook time. Unless you want to eat a bowl of sandy mollusks, it is worth the time investment. It is a good idea to begin 2 hours before you plan to eat.
Tip: If you want to avoid this step, ask for pre-cleaned mussels or clams from your local fishmonger. Pre-cleaned mollusks only need to be rinsed under cold water.
If you did not pick up pre-cleaned mollusks:
1. Start the process by running cool water over the mollusks and use a stiff kitchen brush or scrubber to clean them.
2. Toss out any that have cracked or damaged shells.
3. If you find an open shell, tap it against the counter to see if it will close. It should snap shut. Throw away any shells that don’t snap shut.
4. Use a knife to scrape off any barnacles and pull off the strings or “beards” on them.
5. Place them in a large pot or bowl.
6. Add cold water. There should be enough water that the clams are completely covered with a few inches extra on top.
7. Add 2/3 cup salt for every 8 cups or 2 quarts of water. Use your hands to mix. Let them sit in the saltwater bath for up to 1 hour.
8. Drain the water and rinse the mollusks to flush out loose grit.
9. Add water and salt again to repeat the process but only let them sit in the water for another 20 minutes.
10. Drain and rinse a final time.
This process should get rid of any grit or sand in the mollusks.
Cooking Mussels & Clams
1. Add just enough liquid to a deep pan or stockpot to cover the bottom completely. You want just enough liquid to create steam, not to boil the meat. It should be about ¼ inch deep. You can use water, white wine or beer. Many people enjoy steamed mollusks in a flavorful broth made from water, butter and fresh lemon juice or from sautéed garlic in white wine. Do not add any additional salt. The mollusks are salty enough.
2. Cover the pan and heat on medium to high heat.
3. Once the liquid is boiling, add the shellfish. Use a tightfitting lid to cover the pot again.
4. Cook until the shells are all popped open. This can take from 4 to 10 minutes depending on the size of the mussels or clams. Discard any closed shells.
5. Then, remove from the heat and serve.
Serving Mussels & Clams
You can serve steamed mussels or clams in a bowl with a thick slice of crusty French bread or remove the shells and serve over angel hair pasta. You can make a delicious sauce with the broth by adding heavy cream or butter. Then, bring to boil and reduce it until it is nice and thick.
For the freshest shellfish in Connecticut, stop by City Fish Market on Silas Deane Highway in Wethersfield!