|Even though clambakes traditionally take place outside, you can easily prepare this delectable summer feast in your NYC apartment.|
Don’t let living in a city apartment deter you from experiencing summer’s most decadent meal: the clambake. Even though these seafood fests traditionally take place outdoors, all you need to get the action going inside your kitchen is an oversized stockpot, the right utensils, a capable stove, and a little know-how.
In NYC, the action is more likely to happen inside a small kitchen, and the eating could happen on a roof, terrace, in a backyard, or even inside a fourth floor walkup. But have no fear –– if you don’t have access to an outdoor space –– cooking and dining indoors can be just as delicious and fun, and does have its advantages. You never have to worry about Mother Nature’s willful ire spoiling your get-together.
Fortunately, the weather held out last week when I attended my first New York City rooftop clambake at the home of Danielle Fichera. Her childhood friend Mary McAuley, also the creator of Clambake Chardonnay, worked magic in the kitchen and shared a list of practical tips that I want to pass along. Regardless of location, these ideas will surely turn an ordinary meal into a seasonal feast that you and your guests won’t soon forget, whether you’re in the city, at the beach, inside or out.
1. Don’t be a slave to the recipe.
Few things pack more nostalgia into a bite than the traditional clambake flavors, but don’t be afraid to experiment with topped herbs and ingredients like Italian parsley, oregano, cilantro, lemon zest or even olive oil. These additions can make your clambake unique and memorable.
2. Think locally for “fresh” ideas.
Let the nearby flavors of the season guide you. Use fresh carrots to replace corn, tomato and basil to add new dimension, or even consider chili flakes for a ‘Lobster Diavola’ that your guests won’t see coming.
3. Prep ahead.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed as your guests arrive, particularly if you have a small kitchen. Prep everything (except herbs) in advance and organize. Fine dice your base ingredients such as garlic, onion and leeks, before you sauté in olive oil with white wine. Follow with other ingredients such as potatoes, corn, sausage, shrimp, clams (of course!), and other shellfish of choice. Serve garlic and onion in ramekins with your meal as a dipping option with crusty French bread.
4. Let the lobster be your guide.
This one is simple: The lobster indicates whether or not the clambake is done and ready to eat.
5. Invest in cloth napkins.
Fabric can handle messy hands, and won’t blow away during your outdoor soiree. Plus, cloth napkins are good for the environment and you’ll use them again and again.
6. Go beyond beer.
Summer ales and lagers are typically the most obvious pairings for seafood, but a white wine can offer great harmonious flavors. Crisp, citrusy chardonnays cut through the butter, yet still bring the body needed to tackle hardy ingredients like sausage and potatoes. So yes, it’s okay to go beyond beer and serve wine at your summer clambake.
7. Don’t forget the cleanup.
At the end of the meal, pass around warm, wet cloths with lemon wedges to ensure your guests leave not only full but also fresh-scented and clean.
An ocean or beach backdrop may be what you envision for your clambake, but the New York City skyline is a gorgeous setting for an outdoor meal. Below are some scenes from our evening. You’ll notice how we began our gathering in full sun, but a few short hours later the night sky and city lights fell upon us.
|With a glass of Clambake Chardonnay in my hand, I am ready to eat!|
|What a gorgeous Manhattan sunset.|