Grilled Clams in Chile-butter Sauce

This is a variation on Clams Johnson, a dish invented in the late 1980s by our friend Steve Johnson, now the chef/owner of the Rendezvous restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We like digging clams along the Massachusetts coast, and this is a great way to cook them. Like mussels, they take well to the smoky flavor of the grill and have the added advantage of letting you know when they’re cooked, because they pop open. You can also serve these over pasta, if you like.

Recipe courtesy of "Grill It!" by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, copyright 2008. Used by permission of DK Publishing. All rights reserved.

Grilled Clams in Chile-butter Sauce

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    1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened 32 littleneck clams, scrubbed
    1/2 cup white wine 4 slices of good French bread, about 1 in (2.5 cm) thick
    1 tablespoon minced garlic 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
    1 teaspoon red pepper flakes Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste


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    • 1

      Light a fire well over to one side of your grill, using enough coals to fill a shoebox. When the coals are all ignited, the flames have died down, and the temperature is hot, you’re ready to cook.

    • 2

      Put the butter, wine, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a shallow foil pan that is large enough to hold all the clams in a single layer and sturdy enough to resist the heat of the fire. Place the pan on the grill near the fire, not directly over it, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring a few times, until the butter is melted and the mixture is fragrant. Let the sauce come to a simmer, then slide the pan over to the side of the grill away from the fire.

    • 3

      Place the clams on the hot side of the grill, directly on the grill grate, and cook them until they pop open (8–10 minutes). Use tongs to transfer the clams to the pan containing the sauce as they are done. (Discard any clams that do not open.)

    • 4

      While the clams are cooking, arrange the bread slices around the perimeter of the fire and grill until lightly toasted (about 2 minutes per side).

    • 5

      When all the clams are in the pan, stir them around a bit to coat with the sauce, and sprinkle generously with parsley and salt and pepper. Serve them right out of the pan, along with the toasted bread to soak up the juices.

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