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Stovetop Clambake

Here is an adaptation of the traditional outdoor clambake that brings the sweet scent of steamed clams and lobster into your kitchen. Ask your fishmonger for a bit of rockweed, the brownish green tangle of seaweed used to pack lobsters, and add it to your pot. It will lend a nice kiss of saltwater.

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. small red potatoes, unpeeled, halved
     or quartered
  • 2 lb. hard-shell clams, such as littleneck
     or Maine mahogany, well scrubbed
  • 2 quarts rockweed (seaweed), rinsed (optional)
  • 4 live lobsters, each 1 to 1 1/4 lb.
  • 4 ears of corn, husks and silks removed
  • 16 Tbs. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and
      kept warm

Directions:

In a saucepan, combine the potatoes with salted water to cover. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Lay a double layer of cheesecloth about 15 inches square on a work surface. Discard any clams that are gaping and do not close when tapped. Arrange half of the clams on the cloth and fold to make a flat, somewhat loose bundle. Tie the ends with kitchen string. Repeat with the remaining clams and then make a third bundle with the potatoes.

In a large pot, insert a steamer rack or perforated insert that stands several inches above the bottom of the pot. Pour in water to a depth of 1 to 2 inches. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then turn off the heat. If using the rockweed, arrange a thin layer on the steamer rack. Set the lobsters on top, arrange the bundles of potatoes and clams on the lobsters, and then cover with another layer of rockweed. Cover, bring to a rapid boil over high heat and cook for 16 to 18 minutes. After 8 minutes, lift the lid and set the ears of corn on top. Check for doneness by using tongs to see if the clams have opened. The lobsters should be bright red and the steam should carry the sweet smell of cooked lobster.

Using the tongs, remove everything from the pot, discard the rockweed and pile the food on a large platter. Snip open the bundles and discard any clams that failed to open. Divide the butter among warmed individual ramekins. Serve immediately, along with tools for cracking the lobster shells and plenty of napkins.
Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New American Cooking Series, New England, by Molly Stevens (Time-Life Books, 2000).