Date Night: Clams with White Wine Sauce

Date Night: Clams with White Wine Sauce

Darling Sister:

When my husband chooses what we should have for date night dinner, it’s always the same thing. Fortunately, we both agree that clams steamed over white wine and butter, dressed with a little herby dill and parsley, is just the ticket.

This recipe is simple enough to pull together quite fast, but tastes complex enough to impress company as an appetizer, served alongside a buttery, parmesan-topped bucatini, or (as here) as a private treat for two, when there’s not a soul around who will judge you for the volume of delicious bread you dip in the sauce.


Steamed Clams in White Wine

For two adults, as a main, I used 2 pounds of littleneck clams. Buy them fresh from a fishmonger who is interested enough to gab with you (not out of the grocery case in a netted bag – those are a crapshoot). Take them home and turn them out into a colander set over a bowl. Tuck them in with a damp rag overtop to keep them from drying out, and leave them in the refrigerator until dinnertime.  When you’re ready, open a nice light red wine (I like a pinot or a lighter table wine with these) and let it breathe while you pull this together.

You will need:

  • 2 pounds littleneck clams
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 12 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 cups dry white wine
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 2 teaspoons chopped dill
  • kosher salt and black pepper, to taste


In a dutch oven, melt 1/4 cup unsalted butter over medium heat and add 12 cloves of minced garlic plus one minced shallot. Saute, stirring occasionally, for 3-5 minutes, until fragrant and no longer sharp-smelling. Add a pinch of salt and several turns of black pepper.

Give your clams a quick rinse under the faucet, then lower into the pot and quickly add 2 cups of dry white wine – I prefer sauvignon blanc here.  Cover almost completely with a lid, but keep a watchful eye on the contents.

In 5-7 minutes, the clams will start to open wide (usually one at a time). As they do, remove them with tongs to a bowl.  Within 3 minutes (give or take) they should have all opened. Remove any that refuse to open and toss them – they are not edible.

When all you have left is broth, let it simmer for 5 or so minutes, tasting as you go. You’re looking for a well-rounded, slightly acidic sauce for the final dish. Adding a pinch or so of salt can help here. At the finish, add 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley and maybe 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh dill. Pour the sauce over your clams and serve immediately. I like this best with a green salad (here, butter lettuce and radish, with balsamic vinegar) and lots and lots of crusty bread.


Bon appétit!


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