Steamed Clams or Mussels, Unleashed


The simplest way to steam clams and mussels is to put them in a pot with some water. But it’s not that much harder to build in added flavors; you can vary the aromatic vegetables, the liquid, and even the last-minute stir-ins (see the chart below).

When you’re done, there’s almost a whole meal in the pot. All you need is some bread or simply cooked rice, grain, or potatoes to sop up the broth. Or you can ladle spoonfuls over a bowl of pasta. Serve leftover clams or mussels cold in salads or spreads.

Makes: 4 servings
Time: 30 minutes


  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 large shallot or small red onion, chopped

  • 1/2 cup white wine, beer (ale is nice), or water

  • 4 to 6 pounds clams or mussels, well washed

  • Fresh parsley leaves or sprigs for garnish

  • Lemon wedges for serving


1. Put the oil in a saucepan large enough to hold all the clams or mussels over medium heat. When hot, add the shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to soften, 5 minutes.

2. Add the liquid along with the clams or mussels, turn the heat up to high, and cover the pot. Cook, shaking the pot occasionally, until they all (or nearly all) open, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat.

3. Scoop the clams into a serving bowl. Remove as many shallots as you can with a slotted spoon and scatter them on top. Pour or ladle off the accumulated liquid, leaving any sediment in the bottom of the pan, and pour it over the clams. Garnish with parsley and serve with the lemon wedges.