These are the best steamers/clams I’ve ever had. Seriously. Buttery, garlicky, spicy, clams. YES, YES, MORE YES.
Steamed clams in creamy ale sauce is a variation of my mothers recipe for mussels. Every Summer she makes mussels in a creamy white wine sauce with fresh herbs and we make a meal out of it, because why not? I was lucky enough to grow up with this stuff and see how easy it is to make.
When it comes to steamers or mussels, it’s a “done in 10 minutes” dinner or appetizer. It’s as simple as steaming the clams in a lidded sauce pan in whatever sauce you choose—simple or complex. From a creamy ale sauce, arrabbiata sauce, or water, just cover and simmer for 5 minutes until the shells open.
I used to steam clams in a creamy wine sauce until I went to my favorite local craft brewery in Portsmouth, NH. Their ale house mussels consisted of cream, spices, fresh herbs, and a pale ale. So obviously I ditched the wine from that day forward because beer is so much better than wine (and I’m a craft beer nerd so what do you expect?). Besides the beer, the best part about these steamers is the cayenne pepper. It adds a phenomenal subtle spicy kick. The ale sauce just needs a hint of spice to pull it all together.
I always refer to the Portsmouth brewery as a hidden gem, except it’s not hidden and everyone and their mother knows about it. It’s always bustling and the taps are always loaded with an array of awesome local craft brews. Maybe I think it’s wildly underrated? I would describe the cuisine as rustic comfort food with a classy spin, just like these steamers. If I were to open a restaurant, the style would have to be classy comfort food, or modern American dishes with a gourmet twist. Until then I’ll just keep plunking along over here.
Lastly, the toast…yes THE TOAST, don’t underestimate or skip the toast. At restaurants, steamed clams or mussels are always served with toasted french bread on the side for dipping. A delicious step that must not be forfeited. The crunchy bread will soak up the creamy ale sauce and rock your world.
- 2-3 pounds little neck clams
- 2 cups ale or pale ale
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- ⅓ cup cream
- 1 lemon, juice squeezed
- 2 tablespoons fresh basil, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Serve with toasted french bread
- Rinse the clams under cool water, scrubbing any sand or dirt off the shells. Discard any that are open and won’t close when tapped on a firm surface (these are dead). Set aside.
- In a large lidded saucepan, add the beer, onion, butter, lemon juice, garlic, basil, and cayenne pepper and bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Carefully add the clams to the simmering sauce, then cover and steam until fully opened, about 5 minutes.
- While the clams are steaming, toast slices of french bread for dipping.
- After the 5 minutes is up, add the cream to the saucepan, stir once, and let simmer for one additional minute.
- Serve in bowls with creamy ale sauce so the clams stay warm. Serve with toasted french bread.