Summer is here, and that means grilling. And if it doesn’t, it should. There isn’t anything better than riding around, smelling the fresh cut grass and charcoal burning. So, today we grill. But perhaps not how you might think. We aren’t doing kabobs or grilling steaks. Save a little space on the side of your grill because I’m going to tell you the perfect way to make how to grill mussels and clams.
Allow me to digress for a minute…
I remember the first time I made clams. It was in Pulaski, NY, and my band was playing two sets over two days at a music festival at Stoney’s Pineville Campground. We brought our whole crew with us, and made a great weekend out of it. It was a blast, especially having ten or so friends/crew members there to share it with us. It was a perfect weekend, but we still had the crew to take care of, their various girlfriends, the actual band members, and quite a few people that we knew from years past who were all at the festival. With many people, comes many food responsibilities (tip of the hat to Spider-Man, and of course to Brandon as well).
So, how do you feed thirty or so people, in a campground, on a budget? First of all: beer. It’s liquid bread, and if you have enough of it, no one will complain about a damn thing. Heh.
Well, we had the staples of musician survival: beer, bread and cheese. I have found that musicians and their friends can survive on very little for a very long time. I am not talking about wonder bread (which is the most misleading brand name in history), or slices of “American” cheese, I had several large loaves of thick, crusty bread, and several blocks of NY sharp cheddar.
If that might sound crude, let me explain. I have spent years dealing with hungry people who are under the influence. In fact, these days, that’s how I make my living. I cannot stress the power of good bread and cheese enough. But I have digressed, again. Where the hell are the clams and mussels, right? I’m getting to it. I had fun reminiscing there for a minute. Forgive me.
We had the staples covered; no one was going to go hungry. It wasn’t bread and cheese alone, don’t get me wrong; I do not waste any opportunity to grill. We had bratwurst, kielbasa, and pork ribs (notice the lack of hot dogs…this is Cooking is Easy, not Cooking is Retarded and Bad for You). So, with enough supplies to keep the band and crew nourished at the very least, that still left hours and hours of campfire guitar playing, beer drinking (remember how important that is) and quite a few people left over. What do you feed them?
Clams (or mussels, if you can get them). They are easy to prepare, they have a lot of servings, and are just plain fun. I think mussels are one of the tastiest treats that the ocean has to offer us land dwellers, but in this case, I could only get clams. I drove to a nearby supermarket and bought two bags of 50 count clams for about $10 if I recall correctly.
The recipe works equally well for both clams and mussels, and I encourage you to try it with each.
*On a side note, I went to a party in Syracuse a couple years ago that my friend Paul was hosting. It was a Clarkson Rugby party, and I was in charge of the food. I am talking about massive dudes here; dudes who can crush a case of Milwaukee’s Best and think nothing of it. Anyways, they wanted massive food, steaks and such. I used this recipe and made mussels on the grill. While I was prepping, more than half of them told me that they don’t like seafood, and simply won’t eat it. Steak and potatoes guys, if you will. I agreed with them, because I love steak and potatoes. I made some kabobs just to be safe, but I went ahead and made 500 mussels. Ten minutes later, 30 rugby players came up for air and told me that they misjudged the food of the ocean. That was a proud moment as a chef.
Anyways, let’s get started. What you’ll need:
A large stock pot
Mixing bowl/ ladle
Large sheets of aluminum foil
50 count clams or mussels
1 cup ground corn meal/ ½ cup salt
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup red wine vinegar
½ cup cider vinegar
1 ½ cups of water
Ten garlic cloves, finely diced
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large tomatoes, medium chop
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp ground black pepper
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- Fill your large stock pot with cold water. Add a half of a cup of salt, and one cup of ground corn meal. Stir until the salt is dissolved and the cornmeal is dissipated. Empty the clams into the brine, and allow them to sit for a couple of hours. Make sure they stay cold the whole time. Allowing them to sit in the cornmeal/salt brine will take out a lot of the grit and sand that the clams have inside them.
- Mix all of your other ingredients together, and set aside.
- Lay out a large sheet of aluminum foil, maybe 1 ½ feet square. Arrange a dozen or so clams onto the center of the sheet. Crumple the edges of the foil inward and around the clams, so that there is still a hole at the top, about two inches in diameter. Pour in a nice ladle or two of the marinade through the hole, taking care to get a bunch of nice chunks of the tomatoes, onions and garlic in there. You might want to use a couple pieces of foil so that the marinade doesn’t drip out of the bottom, I usually do; the clamshells can pierce through the foil sometimes.
- Place the foil steam bags right onto the grill. Move them around every few minutes for even cooking. Depending on how hot your grill is, cooking time will vary. Clams or mussels cook pretty fast, maybe ten minutes on a hot grill. You will know when they are done if you peel back the foil and the clams are popping open, as if to say, “eat me!” I like to detach the clam from the shell, and use the shell as a scoop for the brine and all the tasty bits.
Well done, chef. Well done.