Step 1 is setting the right mood at the table.
Putting on a Backyard Clambake
By Stephanie Linehan
Photo By Kicki Storm
One of the things I have appreciated most about these past few months is the renewed focus on at-home entertaining. After months of isolation, many people are now exploring how best to share a meal outdoors with close friends or family. If you are doubting whether you can pull it off, I encourage you to give it a go. With a few tips and a fantastic recipe, you’ll be surprised at how easy, delicious, and rewarding it can be to entertain in your own backyard.
My friends know how much I adore entertaining; for me there’s nothing like a home-cooked meal served on a beautifully set table. One of my favorite summer dinner themes is a beach-inspired New England clambake. Here’s how to create your own.
Step 1: Set a Fun Table
One of the easiest ways to find table décor is to go “shopping” in your own home. You’ll be surprised by how many things you find around your house that will help you piece together a fabulous table and set the right mood.
For my clambake, I grabbed last week’s Rye Record to use as a tablecloth, found a bucket of seashells in the garage, pulled a lantern and candles from my living room, and added seagrass glasses, white plates, and bamboo flatware from my kitchen. That alone made a festive table, but I added a little extra zest with table linens and blue wineglasses from Hoagland’s, as well as some fresh play sand from Home Depot that I used as a table runner.
Step 2: Prepare for the Show
Now that the table is set, how do you best prepare for a graceful, stress-free evening? The musician in me likes to think of having a dinner party as putting on a show. There is no need to remember what to do next if you write out a detailed timeline of cues.
If the dinner starts at 8 p.m., your timeline should list all the critical steps leading up to the moment you sit down to eat. This way, as you are busy greeting your guests and refreshing their drinks, you don’t have to remember what time to throw the pot in the oven or dress the salad. All you have to do is glance down at your timeline. It takes a bit of effort to put together the plan, but trust me it will give you a great sense of control going into the night, and you’ll be able to enjoy yourself at your own party.
Step 3: Follow a Crowd-Pleasing Recipe
With a gorgeous table and a solid game plan in place, all you need is a delicious recipe for a fabulous stovetop clambake that tastes like summer. Good luck, and remember, try to enjoy a glass of wine before your guests arrive. Cheers!
3 cups chopped yellow onions
1 cup chopped shallots
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups dry white wine
1 pound mussels, cleaned and debearded
1½ pounds kielbasa, cut into 6 pieces
1½ pounds small red potatoes, scrubbed
2 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned
1 pound steamer clams, cleaned
3 lobsters (1½ pounds each)
1 Tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
8 tablespoons butter, melted
Sauté the onions and shallots in olive oil in a 20-quart stockpot over medium heat for 10-12 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Add in the white wine, potatoes, and salt and pepper. Cover with a lid and cook on medium/high heat, bringing it to a boil. Should take about 8 minutes. Add the kielbasa and lobsters and cook covered for 15 minutes more. Then, add in the clams, steamers, and mussels, and cook covered for another 10-12 minutes, until the shells open, the potatoes are tender, and the lobsters are bright red.
Remove the lobsters, cutting open the tails and cracking the claws. Remove the shellfish, potatoes, and kielbasa, and transfer to large individual bowls to serve each guest. Finish the bowls by putting pieces of the lobster on top and a half a lemon. Discard any unopened clams and mussels. Finally, strain the liquid that’s left in the pot through a sieve, dividing it equally into ramekins. Swirl a pinch of parsley into each ramekin and serve and enjoy with a baguette.