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How to Host a Clambake in Your Backyard

James Beard

August 01, 2017

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Landlocked? No problem. In the excerpt below from James Beard's Treasury of Outdoor Cooking, our namesake shares a simple guide for bringing the classic seaside soirée onto dry land. Load up on clams, lobster, chicken, potatoes, corn, and butter, and you've got yourself a summertime feast—sans the sand-filled shoes.

Although clambakes are traditionally held on the beach, they may be done in your backyard, as well. In either case, you will need a pit about 2 to 3 feet deep and 3 feet in diameter. It must be lined with rocks—nice, smooth, oval rocks—arranged in as level a manner as possible.

Build a good fire and keep it going for several hours, or until the ricks are thoroughly heated. Rake all the coals and brush off the ashes. Now work rapidly. At this point, the various ingredients should go into the pit, in sequence, as quickly as possible. Cover the hot ashes with seaweed about 6 inches deep (if you are not near the sea, substitute leaves and ferns).

Cover this with a piece of wire mesh, and then layers of well-washed, soft-shelled clams. A bushel will serve 30 persons. Add a live lobster for each person. Then take your choice of sweet potatoes, white potatoes, or corn (from which the silk has been removed and the husk left); add chicken halves wrapped in foil or parchment.

Make a layer of your selection and cover with more seaweed, then with a piece of canvas. Weight the canvas down with large rocks. A clambake should steam for 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the amount you are serving. If you add chickens to your clambake, I think it is wise to broil them lightly before wrapping in foil.

It is customary to eat the clams, first, served with loads of butter, then the lobster, and then the chicken. Always serve beer and great hunks of French bread.

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