Steamer Clams

clamsEven though school has started, summer is not quite over. Here in the Pacific Northwest, late summer and early fall offer up gorgeous weather that entices you outdoors before the rainy season begins again.

One of my favorite seasonal dishes for this time of year is steamer clams. While many people head to the beach at low tide to dig for these local delicacies, I typically buy mine at the farmers’ market where someone has already done the majority of the work for me. You might also be able to find small manila clams at the grocery store in the seafood section.

You can purchase steamer clams several hours ahead of cooking and keep them refrigerated or on ice until you use them. Always use steamer clams the same day, and make sure your source is providing the freshest clams possible.

I live in a household that loves clams. Resultantly, I buy them in bulk when I plan to cook them for the main meal. Jim and Tanner by themselves can put down about five pounds of the bivalves and still look around for something else to eat. As an appetizer, however, you can cook fewer.

I prefer making the clams in a simple wine and butter broth redolent with herbs. It not only provides tremendous flavor to the clams, but it also serves as a delicious base for dipping crusty bread to supplement the meal. To round out our traditional late summer supper of clams and bread, I include sweet corn on the cob, a simple green salad with whatever seasonal veggies I have around and a crisp white wine or beer.

Cooking steamer clams isn’t so much a recipe as a series of steps I follow. I don’t really measure – I just toss in ingredients.

How to Cook Steamer Clams


  • Grass-fed butter
  • Chopped shallots or sweet onions
  • Chopped fennel bulb
  • Clams
  • Dry white wine
  • Fresh lemon juice and zest
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped fresh tarragon


  1. On the stovetop, melt butter in a large pot.
  2. Saute shallots or onions and fennel in butter until soft.
  3. Add clams, white wine, juice of one lemon, zest from half the lemon, and pepper. Stir to combine.
  4. Cover the pot and allow to steam, stirring occasionally, until all of the clams have opened. Discard unopened clams.
  5. Taste for seasoning and stir in tarragon.

Replace fennel with chopped garlic and tarragon with chopped fresh basil. Stir in fresh chopped tomatoes with the basil.


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