What do you get when you gather five chefs, one chicken farmer, a retired mechanic, a nurse, a writer/ photographer, a graphic designer, and $600 worth of seafood, Summit beer, and Perrier Jouet Champagne? A clambake, of course.
Last weekend we hosted the second annual September clambake at our farm in Wadena, MN. We have been looking forward to the bake since last year’s event and my bout with cholera ended (true story).
Early fall is the perfect time to have a clambake. Seafood, especially shellfish, are in the early stages of seasonality. The weather lends itself to a roaring fire and simmering pots of shellfish, and our produce is in full swing. The menu for our clambake was as follows:
7 lbs of Bristol Bay king crab
5 lbs of wild Maine mussels
3 dozen Indian Creek Oysters
10 lbs count neck clams
10 lbs live crayfish
4 lbs fresh gulf shrimp
1 whole Arctic char
Homegrown sweet corn, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and cucumbers
We slurped, shucked, peeled, and devoured seafood for three hours, often taking breaks to drink beer and Champagne and let the last round settle to make room for the next round the Thanksgiving Day approach, if you will.
A clambake is really easy for any backyard gourmet or tailgater. All you really need is a small fire pit, a large stockpot, fresh shellfish, seaweed, and beer. To do a one-pot clambake, just separate layers of seafood and vegetables with seaweed, put the lid on, and place it on the fire. We mingled our seaweed layers with tons of fresh tarragon and thyme to add an aromatic quality—it worked great.
One beauty of the clambake is the low dirty-dish to food-enjoyment ratio. Also, if your fire is well stoked you can just throw your empty seafood shells into the pit and they magically disappear. Additionally, most of the food is hand food and needs very little silverware, but many, many napkins.
Try autumn cooking outside the Minnesota box and have a clambake in your backyard.
Photos by Danielle McFarland