Mollusks are my clam, er, jam. I'll take them raw or grilled or baked or steamed. But my favorite preps are the simple ones. I won't turn down oysters rockefellar, but I would much prefer slurping them raw. Grilling mollusks is super easy and delicious. You can either place the whole, closed shells on the grill grates or shuck them first and cook on the half shell.
If you grill clams whole, the shell will pop open when it's cooked, the clam will stick to the upper shell and you will lose some juice from the reaction. (It will tilt towards it's hinge allowing some liquid to leak out. Not cool.) Shucking them first eliminates the loss of that precious juice that sits inside. But, it takes more work, and we aren't all shucking masters. Regardless of which path you choose, don't forget to clean them first.
Clams are filter feeders. That means they chill in one place and suck up other life around them. (Does that remind you of some people you went to high school with?) To clean them, soak them in cold water for about 20 minutes. While in the water they will spit out any extra sand. After they've soaked, lift them out of the bowl, don't strain. (Since the sand will settle at the bottom of the bowl, dumping them into a strainer will undo the last step.) Now scrub them with a potato brush or clean toothbrush to make sure you remove any remaining sand.
Disclaimer: If a clam is already open before cooking it, this most likely means it's already dead. And you want to be the one to murder them. They've wronged you somehow, and you must seek vengeance. If there are some partially open, gently tap them on the countertop, and if they don't close shut in a few minutes, they are expendable.
While the brine and juice inside a clam is amazing and is the flavor that steams into the meat, I like to amp it up just a touch. (Especially when you see your life flash before your eyes and the juice sizzles into the grill grates, lost forever.) So I wanted to make a simple butter sauce. And what's better than a ramp butter? Nothing. Nothing is better.
I refuse to pump the breaks on ramps. I simply will not withhold on making things with them until they are all dried up. I will then sink into a minor depression, but the reminder that tomato season is upon us will lift me up.
To make the sauce, simply melt some butter in a pan on low, throw in the minced ramps (white and purple parts only) and let it cook for a couple minutes. The butter will bubble up a bit on the edges, so just keep stirring. There really is no technique here besides not browning the butter or ramps. Just let it melt and mix. You can keep this on low while your clams are grilling.
You'll want a super hot grill for these (I am using a gas grill). Let it preheat, then place the whole clam shells directly onto your grill grates. These little guys will be super shy at first and won't do a thing. Close the lid, let them get comfortable, and in about six minutes, they should start opening up. Maybe they'll tell you a joke or at least share their A/S/L. Again, since we chose to put these on whole, the clam will be hugging the top shell when it's ready to remove. VERY carefully, grab onto the top shell with tongs and place in a clean bowl, preserving as much liquid as possible. Collect all the remaining clams and their juice as they open up. They should all be ready within minutes of each other. (Discard if they do not open.)
If keeping things simple is a priority, leave them in the bowl and drizzle with the ramp butter, then top with parsley and a lemon squeeze. Just be sure to dip each one into the sauce before eating. If you want to be fancy, fill a plate with course salt (see picture above). Carefully break off the empty shell and set the half shells on the salt (the salt is for stability/juice preservation). Drizzle with ramp butter and finish with lemon and parsley. Usually the brine has enough salty flavor, but you can top with maldon sea flakes if you so choose.
Obviously you should be drinking rosé during all of the above steps.
Hope you enjoy!
Recipe loosely adapted from Bon Appétit.