Both hard- and soft-shell clams are delicious and easy to prepare and cook. You can eat hard-shell clams raw or cooked, but soft-shell clams must be cooked until they open before eating. Always use live clams that smell pleasant and that resist having their shell opened forcefully. Eat large clams with pasta and white wine sauce, or serve them with a butter-based dipping sauce and fresh bread.
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Fill the bucket with water, and add the salt and cornmeal.
Put the clams in the bucket, and allow them to soak overnight. This will encourage the clams to flush out any sand or debris that has collected inside their shells.
Wash each clam to remove any dirt or other material from its shell. Throw out clams with cracked shells and clams that do not close completely when touched.
Place the clams in a large pot. Do not overfill the pot; clams take up additional room once the shells pop open.
Add the water, garlic, white wine and pepper to the pot. Cover the pot and bring the water to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer.
Simmer the water to steam the clams, covered, for about 8 minutes, and then remove all open clams with a slotted spoon. The heat and steam inside the covered pot will cook the clams. Allow the remaining closed clams to cook for another 3 to 4 minutes and scoop out the newly opened clams. Discard any clams that failed to open.
Cut the clams out of the shells with a clean utility knife. Cooked clams should come easily out of the shells.