Clambake Step-by-Step

Jeff Corwin, host of Extreme Cuisine, shows Food Network Magazine how to make a clambake on the beach.

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

©Keller and Keller 2009

The Corwin Family Clambake

Jeff Corwin invited Food Network Magazine to his bayside home in Massachusetts for a clambake with his family: his wife, Natasha, and daughters Maya Rose, 7,and Marina Faye, 2. The Corwins live on an island accessible only by a one-lane causeway that floods at high tide, and they planned to feast on clams and lobsters they caught themselves. This was one New England tradition Food Network Magazine could not resist!

Gather your supplies

What you'll need:
nylon mesh bag or old pillowcase
shovel
dry wood (at least 50 logs)
medium-size rocks (at least 50)
kindling
matches or lighter
seaweed (at least 10 pounds)
large burlap cloth
large canvas tarp
tongs or oven mitt
clambake ingredients (clams, lobster, corn, potatoes)

Soak the clams

Plan on 1 pound of clams per person. Put them in a nylon mesh bag and soak 1 to 2 days in seawater, shaking occasionally. They'll be perfectly clean — no mud or sand. (You can also soak them in a bowl of salted water in the fridge.)

Dig a pit

Find a level, sandy spot on the beach (and make sure clambakes are permitted there!). Dig a 6-by-4-foot pit with sloping sides, 1 to 2 feet deep. Don't dig too deep, or you might hit the water table. If the sand starts to look wet, start over somewhere else.

Line the pit with wood

Line the bottom and sides of the pit with plenty of dry wood. Look around for crack-free rocks (softball to cantaloupe size) and layer them on top of the wood.

Light the fire

Pile more wood on top of the rocks, add kindling and ignite. Once the logs start to break down, spread them out with a stick so the fire covers the rocks. Jeff advises, "Make sure you're always in control of your fire. Call the fire department in advance and have a water source nearby."

Let the fire burn down

When the fire burns down, the rocks will be powdery, glowing and hot enough to serve as coals; this takes 2 to 3 hours. Sprinkle some water on the rocks; if it sizzles and evaporates instantly, you're ready to cook.

Peel the corn

While you wait for the rocks to heat up, get your corn ready, Corwin-style: Peel back the husks and remove the silk.

Prepare the corn

Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and minced fresh rosemary, then fold back the husks and tie with twine.

Cover the rocks

Once the rocks are hot enough, you'll need to move quickly. Cover the rocks with a generous layer of wet seaweed (it will start to steam). Jeff and his daughter Maya collected seaweed from the bay, but you can order it from a fish market.

Start cooking

When you've finished with the seaweed, start tossing food on top: Jeff cooks corn, steamer clams, lobster and red potatoes.

Cover the pit with burlap

Quickly cover the food with wet burlap (or use wet sheets or even wet newspaper).

Add canvas and sand

Cover the wet burlap with a large wet canvas tarp — a painting drop cloth is perfect. Weigh down the edges of the tarp with sand or rocks to trap the steam. Be careful not to get sand in your food.

Uncover the food

After an hour, remove the tarp and burlap, being careful not to stir up any sand. Pull out all the food with tongs or an oven mitt and let the pit cool completely.

Make a side dish

You can eat the smoky potatoes plain, but Jeff likes to turn them into potato salad. He preps all the ingredients in advance: a lemon-mustard vinaigrette, blanched green beans and thinly sliced fresh mint. Then, at the clambake, he quarters the hot potatoes and tosses the salad together.

Enjoy!

According to Jeff, "This meal isn't about measuring. It's about knowing your food and your fire, and using the earth as a natural oven."

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