Finger Food For Grown-Ups

Let me put your minds at ease, right here at the top: No, our kids do not love clams. They’re kids, first of all, and clams are kind of freaky. The most I can say, while maintaining journalistic integrity, is that our kids and clams are in the process of learning to coexist. They’re getting to know one another. They’ll eat one or two, at most — warily, and with some prodding — before they move on to the safety of chips and guac. But learning to coexist is important, and exposure, as we have argued here before, is half the battle. And, this summer, we’re not having any trouble in the exposure department. This summer, we are all about clams.

At the risk of sounding predictable, we are sticking to a script these days when it comes to entertaining – and, more specifically, when it comes to appetizers. There will be no elaborate cheese platters, no overly-produced dips, no bruschetta. (Okay, maybe some bruschetta.) Whenever we have people over, and even when we don’t, we do up a bowl of littlenecks from The Fish Guy at the farmer’s market, slice a fresh, crusty loaf of bread, set out some napkins and forks, and let that be our appetizer plate. We find that even if the kids won’t touch the clams, they’ll gladly take a hunk of that bread and dip it into that deep, salty broth. Which, as my parents always used to say, just means more good stuff for us grown-ups. There are endless variations to this dish — spicy, not spicy; garlicky, not garlicky; wine, no wine; basil, or tarragon — but it’s easy and fast, it only dirties up one pot, and clams are, on the farmer’s market spectrum, a relative bargain. Plus, there’s just something festive (and yes, I just used the word festive) about sitting outside with some friends on a summer night, as dinner sizzles on the grill, burning through a bowl of clams and a loaf of bread and tossing the shells — clank, clank, clank — back into the bowl. That’s living.

Steamed Little Necks
Maybe the best part: there’s no stress about overcooking or undercooking when it comes to clams; these things literally open their mouths and tell you when they’re done.

In a Dutch Oven set over medium heat, saute 1 chopped shallot (or spring onion, which we got at our farmer’s market), 1 minced garlic clove, a few shakes of red pepper flakes and some freshly ground pepper in olive oil. (The clams provide their own salt, so hold off until the end and decide if it needs more.) When onion is soft, add about a two dozen fresh clams (about six per person), washed and scrubbed, and a 1/4 cup white or rose wine. Cover and reduce heat to medium low. When the clams steam open, about five to ten minutes, add a handful of chopped tomatoes (any shape or color), some chopped fresh basil, and simmer another two or three minutes. Discard any clams that haven’t opened, and pour into serving bowl. Serve with sliced, crusty bread for sopping. And cold wine.

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My picky eaters have embraced spaghetti and clams (a close cousin to pasta with butter and cheese)


I love having this recipe on hand, thank you! I don’t eat clams unless they are hidden in something else (it seems I never grew out of that pickiness) but think this is one of those things I should know how to make!


Great idea for an appetizer and you are right, relatively inexpensive yet has that Fancy App / Ooo la la vibe for guests.

Growing up I loved eating clams and mussels and am trying to get my kids to enjoy them as well. My son loves the “idea” of them, but after one bite he moves on. He does, however, love shrimp and crab, so I guess I should count my blessings.

meg watkins

i dog-eared your website as soon as i started reading your post on cup of jo today. and this recipe made me a million times more happy that i did. i’ve never made clams before (scared!) but my next shop at the farmers market will definitely include some of the bad boys. i think you even made me drool a little. yum!

Lisa Reichenbach

Sounds delicious! Thank you for the idea. By the way, we’ve got our children to love clams through a cunning idea of my husband’s. He gives each child (one’s just seven, the other’s two) an empty clam shell and lets them use it as a utensil to grip and grab other clams out of their shells. They enjoy this so much, they gobble them all up. Fun is a great motivator!


thanks for this great idea! picked up come clams at wegmans and we slurped them up while we waited for our pizza to cook on the grill! fantastic. keep these ideas coming. 🙂


I’m new to your blog (found you through cup of jo!) but really really am enjoying it for both the recipes and wisdom about motherhood.


We had this as a main course this evening with grilled sourdough bruschetta. What a wonderful recipe. Slurpy good flavor and great for grilled bread dipping. We don’t have to share right???Thank you!!!!

Alla C

So I did make it when inspired that night for dinner, and we loved it so much, I’ve had to replicate it several times both out east on the weekends with fresh little neck clams from Cor-J, and even while visiting family in California. All this time I thought my husband doesn’t like clams, but it’s only mussels and oysters that he dislikes…thanks again!