Steaming Large Clams with Dashi & Sake

Steaming Large Clams with Dashi & Sake


I found these big, hunky clams at the farmers market this weekend, each at least 2 inches across. But how to prepare them? My wife Momo found a bunch of recipes online, but we decided to go as simple as possible -- steam them with sake. I talked about sake-steaming clams in one of my earliest blog posts (written over four years ago already, wow!) but the method we found online was different. Instead of combining the clams and sake in a saucepan and turning on the heat, as I did in the earlier recipe, this method instructed us to start by heating the clams in a dry pan, then add liquid once the clams opened. So here's what we did: I soaked a dozen clams in salt water overnight to get them to expel sand and dirt (keeping them in the fridge). Then Nobuko, my M-I-L, prepared 2 cups of kombu dashi, adding a pinch of salt to the liquid, and setting aside. She arranged the clams in a dry cast iron skillet, covered the skillet and placed it over high heat. After about 7 or so minutes, the clams opened up. Nobuko uncovered the skillet and added the dashi. When the dashi started to boil, she poured in about 1/2 cup sake. When the liquid boiled again, she swirled in soy sauce, I'm guessing about a tablespoon. That was it, the clams were ready: Nobuko plated the clams with the broth in individual bowls. (While Nobuko was working the stove, I chopped scallions for garnish, which I sprinkled atop the clams.) The clams were incredibly tender and so, so delicious, as was the broth. But I wondered, what was the point of starting the clams on the dry skillet, rather than in dahi and sake? Nobuko wasn't sure, but thought it was more appropriate for larger clams. I'm not sure either. Anyone out there know the answer, or have an opinion? If so, please post them in the comments! Thanks...

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Comments (3)

It is possible that the clams would retain its own sea water flavor without infusing into the broth, so when we actually eat it, it wouldn't lose the taste of the original flavor... Do you think?? Keep up the good work!!!
I actually think it might be the opposite. By not having any liquid in the pan, when the clams open up their natural juices probably seep onto the hot dry pan and evaporate (even with the lid one I would expect the "clam-juice steam" to escape). I'm not sure why one would want this to happen, except maybe mitigate an excessive "clamminess" (never a problem for me) which may overwhelm the sake/dashi? Anyway, just a guess...
Some of my guesses: 1. Large clams takes longer to cook because of thicker shells, if you cook it with Sake from the beginning, the aroma would probably be boiled off. 2. Thicker shell means greater differential temperature between the inner parts and outer parts of the shell. If you put it in hot water to cook, the differential is too much too soon, and shells would sometimes crack. (It happened to me before....) 3. There's probably more water inside larger clams, when you heat it in a dry pan, it evaporates some of the waters and let the clam steam itself with its own juices. Since some of the water evaporates and turns to steam, the flavour in the meat might become more intensified, similar to how Chinese dry seafood to intensify the flavour.

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