Labor Day: Tips For A Backyard Clambake
Summer is coming to a close. The proper summer sign off is a clambake, but not all of us are lucky enough to be on the New England coast for Labor Day. That doesn't mean we can't partake in one of the season's best traditions. Here are tips for a hosting backyard clambake without the beach.
What makes up a traditional clambake is, of course, the food. Typically, this includes lobster, steamer clams, potatoes, and corn on the cob. You aren't bound to the tradition, so you can add other items like sausage, mussels, shrimp, and different types of flavorful vegetables.
Part of what gives clambakes unique flavor is the seaweed. If you're landlocked, you may have trouble getting a hold of seaweed, but it's not impossible. At specialty grocery stores you can find dried seaweed (called nori) to give you the ocean flavor you need.
Steaming your food in salted water is fine, but you can give your clambake a little more flavor by adding white wine or light beer to your cooking liquid. Served along side your seafood with melted butter, it adds another layer of flavor to make your clambake unique.
If you've ever spent any time in Maryland, you know that Old Bay is the only seasoning you can use for a clambake. But if you don't have access to this regional flavoring, you can experiment with other spice mixes that complement seafood.
Faux Fire Pit
A traditional clambake isn't like regular outdoor cooking. It requires digging a hole in the sand to build a fire pit in which you layer seafood and seaweed to steam. In a backyard, you may not have a fire pit, but you can still cook your clams. You just need a charcoal or gas grill. A roasting pan works well to hold and steam your food over the charcoal or gas heat.
A fire pit may be more trouble than you want to take on, but you can still host a clambake; you just have to take the cooking inside. A big pot with a steamer basket is all you need to get things cooking.
Another way to do it is to wrap the food in foil packets lined with cheesecloth and lay them directly on the coals to make hobo seafood dinners. If you're hosting a small group, foil packets may be the way to go as they can be wrapped up into individual meals for your guests.
Save your cookbooks for desserts. The only thing you need to know for your clambake is timing. Timing your clambake is important for cooking each layer without over- or under-cooking anything. The bottom layer should be potatoes which are cooked by themselves for five minutes. The next layer should be the lobsters to cook with the potatoes for 10 minutes. Corn should follow the lobsters to cook for 10 minutes before adding mussels or clams to cook for five minutes with all of the ingredients.
There's a lot that goes with a clambake. To keep things as neat as possible, give each guest plenty of napkins and small bowls for melted butter and the cooking liquid alongside their dishes. For the table, make sure you have buckets or receptacles to discard shells and cobs so your guests don't have to keep them on their plates.
We love good parties at The Lakeside Collection! Indoors and outdoors, Christmas dinners or summer cookouts, look to Lakeside for ideas and products to make every gathering spectacular.