While recipes abound, a Cleveland clambake typically includes littleneck clams, corn, potatoes, chicken or even kielbasa. Try adding something new and healthy to your clambake menu. Check out Chef Bebenroth’s recipes here featuring seasonal spaghetti squash and a brine.
We asked Ben Bebenroth, chef, farmer and founder of the Spice Companies (Spice Kitchen + Bar, Spice Catering Co., Spice Acres and Spice Field Kitchen), for a few pointers on how to make your clambake a success. Here are his four tips for a delectable meal:
1) Clean clams well: Purge them in salted ice water with cornmeal in it. “Plunging the clams in the salty icy bath three or four times allows them to take in a little cornmeal and spit out any grit they may contain,” Chef Bebenroth explains. You can cook clams in a large pot on the stove, a large pan on the grill or even directly on the grill grates.
2) Shuck corn before placing it on the grill: Grilling with the husks on takes a long time and can lead to overcooked, tough kernels. So, remove the husk and silk, and place the cobs directly onto a screaming hot grill for about 8 minutes, giving them a quarter turn every two minutes.
3) Brine chicken beforehand: A day or so before your clambake, try a simple brine recipe for your chicken available at metrohealth.org/simplywell. “Soaking poultry in brine ensures the meat stays juicy, which is an added bonus for at-home cooking,” he says. “If chicken has to wait for 30 minutes before being served because of an unexpected propane shortage or slow-grilling corn, it will still be delicious.”
4) Make butter better: “Have a container of chopped herbs, chili powders, and a fresh puree of garlic and salt for guests to add to drawn butter, giving their dipped clams a little extra kick,” he recommends. You can also add fresh or dried herbs, salt, honey and other spices to whipped butter. Pile the butter onto a piece of plastic wrap or wax paper, roll it up and chill it. When you’re ready to serve, unwrap and slice into rounds for serving.
A Seasonal Twist
Don’t be afraid to get creative and add some local flair with what’s in season. Much of the food for Chef Bebenroth’s restaurant comes from Spice Acres, a Countryside Conservancy farm in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which produces eggs from free-range hens and fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, apples and squash. Chef Bebenroth also uses produce from other local farms that practice sustainable agriculture.
Cooking during the fall months is incredible because of the large variety of fruits and vegetables, says Chef Bebenroth. “All the wild mushrooms start coming in,” he says. “We have late-season greens.” On top of that, peppers, pumpkins, eggplants, apples and grapes are in season. “The canvas is so large,” he says.
Cooking with and eating such a range of seasonal ingredients is part of how Chef Bebenroth stays healthy. “I’m also pretty active,” he says. “I spend a lot of time out in the field on the farm.”
Chef, farmer and founder of the Spice Companies