Summers on Cape Cod introduced me to that well known plate, the clambake, a feast that was a herald of the quintessential seashore summer. Platters, heaped high with just-off-the-boat lobster, freshly dug clams and mussels, farm fresh corn on the cob, potatoes, bowls of real butter and lemon wedges, steaming and smelling of the Atlantic Ocean, would be placed before you. Sweet abundance of the sea! You were probably given a plastic lobster bib and those little wet-dry towelette packets, because you are going to get buttery and juicy. This is a get-down-to-it with your fingers, lean-over-the-platter, catch-the-butter-and-meat-in-your-mouth-before-it-all slips-and-slides-away meal. This is a meal best shared with family and friends with whom you don't mind being seen at your messy best.
Begin by thoroughly rinsing the fresh steamers. Hold a steamer under fresh running water; most of the sand will wash out. Brush any loose sand that may be clinging to the shell. Discard any uncooked steamer whose shell is open (it's already dead and you don't want it!). I put them in a bowl with some fresh water, a little salt, and rinse an additional three or four times. Some folks add a tad of cornmeal, the idea being that the clams will eat it and then clean out their digestive system. I try not to think too much about that.
It's all so simple, you don't need a recipe. Allow about 1/2 cup of water for every 4 quarts of steamers. I use a steamer pot, the kind that has a separate insert that is made to steam foods. (When I didn't have a steamer pot, I used a large soup pot and a steel colander.) Add maybe a teaspoon of sea salt or kosher salt. Cover, bring the water to a boil. Add your corn if you're going to serve it, and let it steam for about 10-15 minutes. Add the raw clams on top, recover the pot, and allow to steam an additional ten minutes or so. It's okay to check off and on because once the clam shells are opened, they are done! Do not overcook or you will believe you are eating the tires off your car.
Folks add any number of things in with their steamers, kielbasa comes to mind. It's all good, but different foods take different lengths of time to cook or heat through, so you'll have to cook in layers, with the longest cooking item going in first.
If you're a true Cape Codder, you will reserve the broth (perhaps adding a bit of butter or lemon) to serve separately so that you can dunk thick hunks of crusty bread into it.
Remove the unappetizing skin covering its dark neck and any strands of seaweed that may still be clinging to the hinge or muscle. Dip in hot melted butter and enjoy fruta del mar, fruit of the sea!