A few weeks ago I headed out to the South Coast of Massachusetts (which has a heavy Portuguese influence) to visit a friend. My first night I was treated to an old-fashioned New England Portuguese clam boil.
As someone relatively new to New England (and who also resides in land-locked western MA), I’d never heard of a clam boil before.
I learned that a New England Portuguese clam boil is kinda like the quick and simplified version of a New England clam bake which is a time-intensive process that involves digging a fire pit on the beach, the use of hot stones and seaweed.
Now I’ve had a few traditional New England clam bakes in my life and they are, let’s just say… epically memorable.
But they’re not something the average Joe in middle America (or even New England) is going to whip up for dinner.
However, a New England Portuguese clam boil can be made in about a half hour by anyone, anywhere with just a stockpot and stove top. You may not find fresh local steamer clams in your area but you can use any combination of seafood that you’d like – mussels, shrimp, other types of clams and lobster all work well.
As far as I’m concerned, it is equally as epic as a clam bake.
It’s also a GREAT meal for the Fourth of July or any backyard, friends and family summer gathering. As I’ll be on Cape Cod with family this weekend, I’ll be making it for third time in three weeks.
I was lucky enough to have some fish stock in my freezer which made this recipe even more fantastically fishy (I love fishy). But if you don’t have fish stock, you can use clam juice and water instead.
And if you’re one of those weird ones that don’t like overly fishy flavors (shockingly common), use water and a bottle or two of beer instead.
My version involves drinking one while everything cooks.
A New England Portuguese clam boil is kind of like the simplified version of a clam bake. Here's a simple recipe that can be made in less than a half hour.
Add stock to stock pot along with garlic, potatoes and onions and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer until potatoes are almost cooked through. Add corn at this step or boil in a separate pot.
Add the steamer clams, raise heat and boil until the shells open, about 5-7 minutes. Discard any clams that don't open.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.