Tender and sweet, steamed soft-shelled clams are meant to be dredged in warm butter. Brown the butter with sage and garlic to add nutty, toasted flavors to this Cape Cod favorite.
I have to admit, the first time I saw soft-shelled clams, I was intimidated by their drooping necks, but they make a great handle for dipping them in drawn butter!
Soft-shell clams are not really soft shelled, they just have thinner shells. Because these can not fully close, steamers can tend to collect a lot of sand. Soaking the clams before you steam them will allow them to push all of this out. The reward is a super delicate clam that will only seem more tender when you dip it in butter.
It’s fun to share these in a big basket at the center of the table. Everyone can dig in by peeling off the shells and skin, and then dipping into drawn herbed butter.
- 4-5 lbs soft-shelled clams
- 1 1/2 finely chopped fresh sage
- 1 stick unsalted butter
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
If you are buying your clams at the market, ask how they’ve been cleaned. If they haven’t been soaked yet, you’ll want to soak them in salt water (1/4 cup to 1 quart water) for at least a couple hours. Either way, 20 minutes before you’re ready to cook, soak them in fresh water. Discard any broken shell bits. Add 1 inch of water to a large pan and place a steamer on top (if you don’t have one, that’s okay too). Pile the clams on top and bring the water to a simmer. Cover until they open up. This will take around 15 minutes, depending on the size of your clams. While you’re waiting on the clams, place the butter on a small pan and bring it to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Allow the butter to simmer until it turns slightly darker. Then lower the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic and stir for a minute, careful not to burn. Add the sage and stir occasionally for another 2 minutes. Serve the butter in small dishes so that everyone has their own. If you have extra, you can always throw it in the fridge and use it later for toast!