Grilling with Chris Schlesinger: Clams in Chile-Butter Sauce

Clams on the Grill with Chris Schlesinger

We are devotees of legendary grillmaster and renowned chef, Chris Schlesinger. We were fortunate to have Chris as a guest in our classroom in July and he has kindly given us permission to share a couple of his wonderful recipes – the first was for “Grilled Mussels with Mango Curry Sauce.” Sticking with the crustaceans, this recipe features another local delicacy: littleneck clams.

Chris and his co-author, John Willoughby, write in the introduction in their book, Grill It!,

“This is a variation on Clams Johnson, a dish invented in the late 1980s by our friend Steve Johnson, now the chef/owner of the Rendezvous restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts. We like digging clams along the Massachusetts coast, and this is a great way to cook them. Like mussels, they take well to the smoky flavor of the grill and have the added advantage of letting you know when they’re cooked, because they pop open. You can also serve them over pasta if you like.”

We like the clams both ways – mopped up with butter or on top of pasta – enjoy!

Grilled Clams in Chile-Butter Sauce

Serves 4 as an appetizer

Clams1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup white wine
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
32 littleneck clams, scrubbed
4 slices of good French bread, about 1 in (2.5 cm) thick
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Light a fire well over to one side of your grill, using enough coals to fill a shoebox. When the coals are all ignited, the flames have died down, and the temperature is hot, you’re ready to cook.

Put the butter, wine, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a shallow foil pan that is large enough to hold all the clams in a single layer and sturdy enough to resist the heat of the fire. Place the pan on the grill near the fire, not directly over it, and cook for about 2 minutes, stirring a few times, until the butter is melted and the mixture is fragrant. Let the sauce come to a simmer, then slide the pan over to the side of the grill away from the fire.

Place the clams on the hot side of the grill, directly on the grill grate, and cook them until they pop open (8-10 minutes). Use tongs to transfer the clams to the pan containing the sauce as they are done. (Discard any clams that do not open.)

While the clams are cooking, arrange the bread slices around the perimeter of the fire and grill until lightly toasted (about 2 minutes per side).

When all the clams are in the pan, stir them around a bit to coat with the sauce, and sprinkle generously with parsley and salt and pepper. Serve them right out of the pan, along with the toasted bread to soak up the juices.