Smoky Summer Shellfish
Smoky Summer Shellfish
Last Wednesday, the New York Times singled out for special mention the shellfish rack Steven designed for his Best of Barbecue line of barbecue products. We would say, “The phones have been ringing off the hook,” but the truth is, it’s the modern Internet-driven equivalent: In any case, shellfish racks have been flying out the door. Go to our sister website, www.grilling4all.com, to lay claim to yours.
If you’ve ever tried to grill shellfish, you know it’s a dicey proposition. Trying to maneuver shellfish on the grates is about as challenging as herding chickens. They wobble, they tip, they spill out their glorious juices. But this ingeniously designed shellfish rack eliminates the hazards. (It’s also great for grilled stuffed mushrooms or olive oil- and spice-coated “B” sized potatoes.)
If you’ve never grilled shellfish before, you don’t know what you’re missing. Here is one of Steven’s favorite recipes to get you started.
Grilled Clams with Sambuca and Italian Sausage
Serves 6 as an appetizer
1/2 pound hot or mild Italian bulk sausage
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
2 cups fresh bread crumbs (preferably homemade)
1/4 cup Sambuca (licorice-flavored liqueur)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper
36 littleneck clams
Lemon wedges (for serving)
Your favorite hot sauce (for serving)
You’ll also need:
Shellfish rack or fish or vegetable grate (optional)
Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and fry it until lightly browned and crumbly, breaking it up with the edge of a wooden spoon, about 5 minutes. Transfer the cooked sausage to a strainer to drain. Discard the fat from the pan.
Melt the butter in the frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion, green and red bell peppers, and garlic, and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs and saute them until they are lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cooked sausage and the Sambuca and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and black pepper to taste; the sausage mixture should be highly seasoned. The recipe can be prepared to this stage up to a day ahead and refrigerated, covered.
Scrub the clams with a stiff brush under cold running water to remove any grit. Discard any clams with cracked shells or shells that fail to close when tapped.
Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
Open a clam, using an oyster knife or blunt paring knife and taking care to spill as little of the juices as possible; hold the clam in a kitchen towel, and working over the sausage stuffing to catch any juices that spill, insert the blade at the edge where the shell is widest. Pull the blade straight back toward the hinge; stop cutting once you have severed the clam’s two adductor muscles. Discard the top shell and place the clam with its juices on the shellfish grate or carefully arrange it on a fish or vegetable grate, if using. Repeat
with the remaining clams. Place a spoonful of the sausage mixture in each shell, on top of the clam.
When ready to cook, place the shellfish rack or fish or vegetable grate with the clams in it on the hot grate or arrange the clams directly on the grate, positioning them so that the bars hold the shells level. Cover the grill and cook the clams until the juices boil and the shellfish are just cooked through, 3 to 6 minutes (covering the grill ensures that the clams cook from the top as well as the bottom). When done, the clams will be slightly opaque and firm to the touch. Transfer the grilled clams to a platter or plates, taking care not to spill the juices. Serve at once, with lemon wedges and hot sauce on the side.
VARIATION: Oysters are every bit as good prepared this way. You’ll have enough filling for 2 dozen.