How to prepare a New England clambake, according to a local chef

Plan your next summer feast.

The New England clambake dish at Summer Shack.
New England clambake dish at Summer Shack. –Summer Shack

A New England clambake, made with clams, lobster, mussels, potatoes, corn, and chorizo, is a summer classic.

“It’s a plate that claims New England,” said Dell Leandro, the culinary director at Summer Shack who called our region’s shellfish “beautiful and sweet.”

It’s not hard to make the dish at home, he said, as long as you have the proper ingredients and know how long to cook them for. He offered the following five tips for preparing a New England clambake for two.

1. Get your ingredients and clean your clams.

To make a clambake for two, you’ll need to buy two lobsters, one-half pound of steamers, one-half pound of mussels, one Spanish onion, one piece of chorizo, two ears of corn (cut in half), eight potatoes (Leandro prefers red), two tablespoons of butter, two tablespoons of Old Bay spice, and water.

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You’ll want to remove any sand off the clams by dipping them in cold water and shaking them gently, Leandro said. Repeat the process a few times, he said.

Where to buy your ingredients? “I prefer to go to a local fish store,” Leandro said. “But most of the supermarkets in New England carry all that stuff.”

2. Make your broth.

Julienne an onion and saute it in the two tablespoons of butter in your pot for one to two minutes, until it’s translucent, Leandro said. Then you’ll want to add the two tablespoons of Old Bay spice and the water, he said. How much water?

“It depends on the size of the pot,” Leandro said, “But I would say enough water so you can submerge the potatoes and corn and chorizo and submerge the lobster,” Leandro said.

Once that comes to a simmer, you will start to add your ingredients, he said.

3. Cook the ingredients in the correct order.

It’s important to know when and for how long to add your ingredients, Leandro said.

“You don’t want to overcook anything,” he said.

Turn up the heat to high before adding the food, and leave it there for the entire cooking time, he said.

You will first add the potatoes, corn, and chorizo to the pot. You can cut the potatoes in half, if you prefer. Keep the pot covered throughout the cooking process, he said. You will cook this batch of ingredients for eight minutes before adding the lobster.

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Next, add the lobster. A one-pound lobster needs to cook for eight to 10 minutes, Leandro said, and a 1 1/2-pound lobster will need to cook for 12 to 15 minutes.

The shellfish goes in last, he said, and cooks for four to six minutes.

“As soon as they’re open, they’re ready to go,” Leandro said. “If they aren’t open, you can leave them on for another minute or so.”

4. Don’t forget the melted butter and the broth.

You’ll want to melt butter — as much as you prefer — to serve on the side, Leandro said.

“Some people like to pour the butter over [their dish],” he said. “Some people like it on the side [for dipping]. But you gotta have it.”

Also, save the broth because you’ll also want to serve that on the side too, he said.

“Some people like to dip the steamers in the broth,” Leandro said. “Then dip them in the butter, then eat them.”

The broth adds flavor, but also has another purpose: to clean any remaining sand from the shellfish, he said.

“If you don’t rinse them in the broth to take out the excess sand, sometimes you’re going to have a sandy steamer,” he said.

5. Present the dish.

When the food is finished cooking, you’ll want to pull the lobsters out of the pot and scoop out everything else with a slotted spoon, Leandro said. At this point, Leandro said he sprinkles a little more Old Bay spice over the cooked food, he said.

“I would lay everything on a big plate and lay the lobsters on top,” he said. “You eat family style. I think that’s the best way to do it. It makes it look like a feast.”

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