Living & Eating on Long Island's East End 

                  Excursions:  Clam Bake, East End Style

My name is Monique.
I'm a 2-time Emmy Award winning TV Producer.
Having been in the business for over 15 years I've produced my share of live tv cooking segments, but never had much time to devote to cooking myself.

Last year when I got married, I moved out of New York City to the east end of Long Island, to ...wait for it...The Hamptons.

Now before you roll your eyes, there's more to the Hamptons than mansions and celebrities.

The Hamptons have some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, miles of productive farmland, plus a rich clamming history that continues to this day.

When I moved out east and realized I was surrounded, not just by the bounty of the sea, but also local farms and vineyards, I couldn't wait to explore and sample my new environment.

That's what this blog is about.  Cooking, living, exploring and sharing those experiences.

You'll notice that my blog is a little of this and a little of that, kind of like a potluck meal.

I was recently invited to my first East End clambake. Having grown up in Connecticut, I've attended more than my fair share of New England clambakes, so I wasn't expecting anything unusual. But they do do things a bit differently out here.

We arrived at the Bullhead Yacht Club as guests of one of it's members. The club sits on the end of a quiet road in Tuckahoe, which is a hamlet of Southampton Town. One of these days I'll figure out what a hamlet is.

When we arrive I notice a large pile of tree brush sitting in the middle of the parking lot. We drive around it to park, wondering why the club hasn't finished their yard work before the event. People are cooking at an outdoor kitchen set up near the parking lot, while past them I can see other people seated at tables near the marina. The sun is shining on the blue water and bright white boats, its really a gorgeous day. 

Several men are tending to the brush pile with rakes and that's when I notice that the pile is roped off. I wander over to see what they're doing and discover that the brush is actually sitting atop several metal trays of clams. The clams are very tightly packed inside these trays, the hinge part of the shell face up.

David Price, a member of the yacht club, is tending to the pile, arranging the brush to make sure all the trays are covered in order that the clams will cook evenly when the brush is lit. Having grown up on the East End, he says this was the way everyone he knew prepared their clambakes when he was a child. It's a much simpler cooking method, more down and dirty than the traditional way I'm used to. 

               A traditional New England-Style clambake


The traditional New England clambake involves digging a large pit, either in the sand or in the ground. Seaweed and large stones are used to "bake" or "steam" the food in the pit. The stones are heated in a fire and used to radiate heat throughout the pit during the cooking process. Or the actual fire can be built in the bottom of the pit and either a metal grill or stones placed above it to hold and cook the food above it.

The other important addition is seaweed. A layer of wet seaweed is placed over the hot stones/firepit in order to keep the heat in and create a "steaming"effect. Then food is placed onto of the seaweed. Food cooked in a clam bake usually involves seafood like lobster, clams, mussels. Side dishes can include potatoes, corn, sausage and onions. Each food is layered in between beds of seaweed, til the pit is full, then the pit is covered with a wet canvas tarp to seal in the heat, plus it prevents the tarp from catching fire. Then the food steams for several hours.

Dave allows one of the children to help him light the brushfire and soon it's crackling and popping, creating a lot of heat. As the fire burns, Dave uses the rake to make sure all the clam trays are covered evenly, so they cook at the same time.

This goes on for maybe half an hour, so I wander away for a bit and sample the raw bar. When I return to the scene, the burning brush has now been reduced to glowing embers and coals, which Dave expertly rakes across the trays, touching each one up to make sure they're all cooking evenly. It's hot work, especially with the heat of the parking lot as your kitchen.

Soon several men from the kitchen arrive with paper buckets very much like the ones you get at KFC. This is when they sweep the burning coals off the trays to finally reveal the clams. They are black and covered with ashes, not at all appealing looking.  I begin to wonder what a black, burned clam will taste like. Using tongs, they quickly pack the clams into the buckets.  

 As I join my party, I see two large buckets of clams waiting for me. I sit down and watch as my husband carefully removes two clams with his bare hands! First he wipes them off on the grass by our feet to remove most of the ash, then he easily opens them up with his hands. Inside the clam looks perfectly fine, neither charbroiled nor burned to a crisp. It's still very hot, so I place it in my mouth between my teeth, blowing thru my mouth to try to cool it off.

Now comes the moment of truth, as I begin to chew it. Yum!   If you like baked clams, these are large, meaty clams with a smoky, earthy flavor. I couldn't get enough! I think I went thru an entire bucket on my own, before someone reminded me there was more food on the way.  With just a touch of cocktail sauce it was the tastiest part of this clambake, East End Style.

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