Steamer Clams with Instant Polenta or Cornmeal

If you can get your hands on a few dozen steamer clams from Maine, and 3 gallons of sea water, and a package of gluten free instant polenta – the kind that cooks in 3 minutes because it is really “pre-cooked,” then you can make a really special treat.

If you are buying the clams, insist that the fishmonger provide live clams – do not accept any clams that are open and will not close. Scrub the clams, discarding any that are dead.  Pour the cold, fresh sea water in a large pot, sprinkle with about 1/4 pound of instant polenta and stir.  Add the live clams – they must be completely covered with the sea water.  Let sit for about 8 hours.  You will notice that as they are left undisturbed the clams will extend their neck-like parts and start spitting out sand and grit, replacing the sand and grit in their stomachs with instant polenta!  That means that when you cook them they will have an automatic polenta stuffing.

For a lesser clam, such as the Mahogany clam, you will notice that the apparatus the clam extends is not long and thin but more triangular.  The polenta (corn meal) treatment is absolutely essential for the Mahogany clam, in our opinion, as it causes the Mahogany clam to purge itself of sand.  Scrub the Mahogany clams really well, and steam for about 5 minutes.  Discard the clams that do not open.

Steam the clams using a very small amount of tap water in the bottom of a large covered pot.  Heat them on high until they are fully cooked – 10 to 20 minutes.  They should all be opened up.  Serve with melted butter with a little fresh garlic grated in to it for flavor.


Note: If no seawater is available, you can use cold tap water (no chlorine!) with added Kosher salt (no iodine).  You add enough salt to bring the specific gravity to 1.021 or thereabouts, then add the instant polenta.  To measure the specific gravity, a hydrometer is required.  In the absense of a hydrometer, you could add about 1/2 cup Kosher salt to 1 1/2 gallons of cold water.


To make an excellent Sauce with Clams: heat

3 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan, add

one chopped onion

3 cloves chopped garlic

Stir for a minute, then add about

a dozen cleaned, prepared clams.  Let cook for a minute, then add

1/2 cup New England Hard Cider

1/2 cup chopped fresh flat Italian parsley

1 dried cayenne pepper – chopped

6 shreds of saffron

the juice of a quarter of a lemon

Stir and cover.  Cook for 5 minutes until the clams open.  Add

2 Tablespoons butter

Serve on top of cooked gluten free pasta, or, with gluten free bread sticks or gluten free rolls to sop up the sauce.

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