Backyard Clambake

  • 2 lbs. clams, preferably steamers, or 1 lb. clams and 1 lb. mussels, in the shell, scrubbed
  • Sea salt
  • 1/4 c. cornmeal
  • 4 large or 8 small ears corn, unhusked
  • 4 medium waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold
  • 4 medium onions, skins left on
  • 4 small (1 1/4 lb.) lobsters
  • 4 T. lightly salted butter, melted (optional)

Place the clams in a large bowl or bucket of salted water (about 3 tablespoons sea salt to 1 gallon water) and stir in the cornmeal. The cornmeal will help the clams get rid of the sand in them more quickly. Leave the clams in a cool place for 2 hours. Drain the clams and then rinse them. If you are also using mussels, rinse and scrub the shells, and remove the beards, the tangle of threads hanging from their shells by sharply pulling on them, with either pliers or your fingers. Don't do this more than a couple of hours in advance, or the mussels will die.

Gently pull back the husks on the corn so that they remain attached at the stem end, and remove the corn silk. Bring the husks back up around the corn, so the kernels are completely covered. (If you are using husked corn, wrap it up in parchment paper or aluminum foil.)

Fill a large kettle with water, add salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and the onions, and cook until the potatoes are tender but still have some crispness in the center, about 15 minutes. Drain the vegetables. Meanwhile, build a large fire in your grill. Soak 2 cups of wood chips in water to cover.

To parboil the lobsters, fill a large kettle with 3 inches of water, and bring it to a boil over high heat. Remove the rubber bands from the lobster claws, and add as many lobsters to the pot as will easily fit. Cover and cook until the lobsters have turned bright red, about 3 minutes. Remove them from the water and repeat with any remaining lobsters.

When the fire has burned down to red-hot coals, drain the wood chips, squeezing out as much water as possible, and spread them over the coals. Immediately replace the rack on the grill, and arrange the lobsters as close together as you can on the rack. Place the corn on top of the lobsters, and arrange the remaining ingredients around and on top of the corn. Cover, leaving the grill vents open, and cook until everything is cooked through and the clams and mussels are open, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove everything from the grill and serve immediately, with the melted butter alongside if desired.

  • Yields: 6 servings
  • Preparation Time: 1 hour, plus clam resting time
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