Clams on the Half Shell

with an apple-ginger mignonette

The past week has been a whirlwind of dinners, gatherings, and parties. It feels as if we’ve gone out every night, but thankfully we’ve still managed to sleep and eat just fine, as you might imagine. We went from a beautiful Saturday afternoon out on the lawn of Prospect Park for the GoogaMooga food festival, to delicious 50 cent wing night in Bed-Stuy, to planning and shooting a video for Handsome Dan’s Candy Stand (get excited and visit if you’re ever in Williamsburg) with Matt, all with a few happy hours in between as we enjoy Kramer’s last week of a break from school before he goes back for the summer session (he’s such a hard worker). That’s what summer is for, I suppose, but maybe this week will be a chance for us to slow down a bit, hang out at home, and for the love of all things that are holy, finish watching Arrested Development’s new season. We’re almost done, but still, I’m slightly disappointed in our slow performance this time around. Don’t worry, we’ll get there.

Clams on the Half Shell

Rachel graduating from Pratt at Radio City Music Hall with Kramer.
I think that the real reason for all of these shenanigans is that my sister-in-law, Rachel, moved back to Phoenix today. She graduated from Pratt with a degree in photography, but her real passion is tattoo design and artistry, so she’s gotten herself an apprenticeship with her artist back home in Arizona. Kramer and I are really proud of her for living in New York on her own for four years, all while her then-boyfriend-now-fiance worked and finished up school in AZ. She’s been working at Wolfbat Studios here in the city, but now she gets to go and do what she truly loves, which is rare and exciting. I’ve personally learned a lot from Rachel, and I count myself among some of the luckiest people in the world to have such a close relationship with my sister-in-law. I’ve heard some horror stories, but Rachel and I have become great friends since Kramer and I moved out here and I am going to miss her deeply. I’m sure it won’t sink in that she’s gone until this coming weekend, when I will inevitable reach out to my phone to send her a text asking what she’s up to, only to remember that she’s 3,000 miles away. Rachel is one of the most caring, non-judgmental, understanding people I’ve ever met. She never jumps to conclusions or makes up her mind about something until she really knows everything she can about it. Most people, myself included, will talk out of their asses about things that they don’t necessarily know anything about, but Rachel’s never been one to do that. She’ll keep quiet until there’s actually something of value to say, which is a quality I wish I possessed instead of my usual M.O. which is to just talk until I’ve run out of things to say. She’s taught me to be a better person and I admire her for going back to the desert to make her dreams come true. Not many people would be willing to do that. Kramer and I will miss her immensely, but we are both incredibly proud of her and I know that she’s going to be the most bad ass tattoo artist that ever existed in a couple of years. I just hope she and her fiance Eric come to visit as often as possible.

Clams on the Half Shell

Anyway, enough with all the sentimental blubbering, right? Rachel is going to do great in Phoenix, Kramer and I are going to keep on keepin’ on in Brooklyn, and all is well with the world…minus the heat. It’s actually been beautiful and breezy the past few days, but I know that gross, thick humidity is just around the corner (we had a little last week), and when that time comes, all I can think about is fresh, cold, raw seafood. I don’t want anything cooked when my hair is frizzing out three feet above my head and I feel like I could cut the hot New York air with a knife. Kramer and I usually head over to Maison Premiere (and Rachel would come, too – boo hoo) for an oyster fix when we needed it, but we’ll order a small side of clams sometimes, too. When I saw some fresh ones for purchase the other day, I thought, hey, let’s shuck some clams at home! Fun! Wrong. I am super bad at shucking clams. I don’t know why I thought that it would be just like an oyster, but I feel like these were way harder to open. Kramer and I watched a bunch of YouTube videos and read about it, but there’s nothing like a ton of practice to make you good at shucking clams. I’m still not great at it, but after about ten clams and some choice words, I was able to do it at an alright pace. It’s kind of fun to sit there, cursing that damned clam, because when it finally opens, nothing can make you happier. I feel like Rachel would have loved to be right there with us, frustrated and laughing as we pathetically tried to open clam after clam. I will say, though, that once they are opened, they are just what you want on a hot summer day. Cold, slightly salty, and refreshing, especially with my apple and ginger mignonette sauce on top. If you’re looking for a project this summer, grab some clams and gives shucking a try. Even if you’re not good at it, like me, it’s still fun to try and I promise, you’ll eventually get the hang of it.

Clams on the Half ShellKramer picking Rachel up after our delicious post-graduation meal at Mission Chinese.
Clams on the Half ShellClams on the Half Shell
Rachel and me at GoogaMooga.

Clams on the Half Shell
And me being sad that she’s leaving.

Clams on the Half ShellClams on the Half ShellClams on the Half Shell
Alright, so, the mignonette part is easy. Just dice your apple, mince your shallot, and mince your ginger.

Clams on the Half Shell
Then add your rice wine vinegar, mirin, red pepper flakes, a pinch of salt, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir and set aside.

Clams on the Half Shell
Now the shucking part. As you can see, it can be frustrating for a new comer. The idea, and you can see it up there, is that you want to take a blunt knife and stick it in the back of the clam where the two halves of the shell come to together at a bit of a point. Push the knife in there to separate the two shells, then move it around to the front and wedge the knife up to finally separate the shells entirely. Use a towel and remember that it takes more than a bit of elbow grease. Don’t give up!

Clams on the Half Shell
See? I knew you could do it!

Clams on the Half Shell
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Fresh, sweet summer clams with an apple-ginger mignonette.
For the Mignonette:
  • ¼ an apple, diced into pieces small enough to fit into a clam shell
  • ½ a shallot, minced
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon mirin
  • 1 healthy pinch red pepper flakes
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small pinch kosher salt
For Shucking:
  • fresh clams, cleaned and chilled
  • a large plate/bowl of ice, for setting the clams on top of
  • lemon wedges
  1. Combine all of your mignonette ingredients, stir, and set aside on the counter or in the fridge until you're ready to use it.
  2. For the clams, you can clean them by placing them in a large bowl of cold water with ½ cup cornstarch to help draw out any sand. Let them soak in the fridge for 1 hour, then remove each one one by one, scrub to remove any leftover bits of grit or sand, and begin shucking.
  3. To shuck the clam, pick one up and grab a blunt knife (like a butter knife). There is a pointy end where the shell seems to come together to form a seal. Take the knife and stick it through the shell here; you will have to use some force and I highly recommend holding the clam with a towel so you don't accidentally cut yourself. Push the knife up through here, then, keeping it in between the two shells, bring it around all the way along the clam, until you can wedge the knife up between the two thinner parts at the front and open the clam entirely. Twist apart the top shell, scrape off any meat from the top, and place the clam on the half shell on your plate of ice. If this is your first clam shucking experience, as it was mine, just keep trying and I know you will get the hang of it eventually! Serve with a little teaspoon for the mignonette and enjoy immediately, preferably with a cocktail.


5 Responses

  1. Woo work those muscles girl! I first time I opened shell fish I bought a one way ticket to the hospital. I love little clams and this dressing sounds delicious, light and zingy.

  2. Tieghan says:

    I have never had claims, but these look really awesome! I still a little scared of them honestly, but you make me really want to give them a try!

  3. JulieD says:

    These look so wonderful!!!

  4. You post some seriously cool recipes. It’s great to know how to shuck a clam. I have always wanted to make that sauce too.

  5. These look amazing! Thanks for the tips for shuck a clam.

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