Leave it to Martha to discover a way to make eating one of the messiest kinds of seafood more refined than ever. During a recent appearance at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, Colorado, our founder shared her tips for making a traditional New England clam bake at home in just one pot. She tells editors at Food & Wine its one of her favorite dishes to make while vacationing at her Skylands estate in Maine—it's chock full of clams, shrimp, corn, and even more shellfish, including fresh lobster. While discussing her approach to cooking each of the delicacies involved in this classic summer recipe, Martha also shared her insight on the easiest way to eat mussels.
"Don't unhinge them," she told those in attendance. "Take the middle out, and then use that to eat all of your mussels. So it's very elegant." This isn't the first time that Martha has illustrated how mussel shells make for ingenious utensils—back on the Martha Stewart Living show, Martha first shared her tip for eating mussels correctly as part of a "Good Thing" segment. "I look for an empty half shell [like this], and then I just find my beautiful, plump mussel...I use it like a little scoop, and I eat it like that!" she says, demonstrating her technique. "You can also use your half mussel shell to scoop up some of that delicious broth."
Alongside mussels, you'll need to find fresh clams to include in your clambake; you'll find them by verifying that they are sealed and still in their shells before buying them, Martha says. "If they're trying to sell you clams that have cracked shells, say, 'No, not that one,'" she tells Food & Wine. Keep clams fresh by storing them in a chilled cooler or on ice, but don't freeze them, Martha says.
If raw oysters are more your style, the best way to serve them, according to Martha, is by placing them on a bed of seaweed. Seaweed also makes for great seasoning for many seafood dishes, Martha says—she tells Food & Wine that dried seaweed can be mixed with salt to create a unique seasoning. "At my house in Maine, there's seaweed everywhere... I get kombu. You can pick that up out of the ocean and dry it," Martha says, adding that it can take up to a year before seaweed is properly dried.
Even if it's not part of a more complex clam bake, boiling fresh lobster can be equally as challenging as shucking oysters—and more challenging than working with mussels and clams for some. Before she even boils water, Martha says she hangs lobsters in her kitchen until all of the excess water has drained out from their shells. Then, she adds a cup of vodka to the water in the pot: "If you were going to be boiled alive, you'd want to have a drink also," she tells Food & Wine editors. "If it's a pound and a quarter fresh from the sea, that's about 13 minutes, up to 18 minutes [of cooking]," Martha says. "Over 18 minutes, it's overcooked."
If you're worried that you've overcooked your lobster, the easiest way to check is to examine the freshly boiled meat, Martha says. "When you open the lobster and the claw is half the size of the shell, you've overcooked." Check out our collection of classic seafood recipes for more tips from Martha.