Perhaps the best description there has ever been of a clambake comes from Adam Kaufer of local catering company Grace & Grit. The bright red lobster, shades of different potatoes, deep black mussels, gradient grays of the clam shells and pops of yellow corn all spread out on a picnic table on top of a layer of butcher paper can all be described as “food confetti” to him. And it’s just as much of a party in your mouth as it is to host one. ¶ Traditionally, a clambake is held on the beach where a pit is dug, the ingredients are wrapped in seaweed and steamed for hours in the sand. But it’s fine if you want to take some shortcuts — or make it fancy. We’ve gathered tips from local pros to make hosting your own North Fork clambake as easy as a summer afternoon.
Get things simmering
When we can’t get to the beach for a traditional clambake, we make it at home. For this, you need two things — a big pot and the ability to layer. It starts with your base, the items that are going to take the longest to cook like the potatoes. Throw those into your steaming liquid of choice (wine, beer, water, broth) and let that cook for a few minutes before adding in the seafood and corn.
Lean into the mess
“I think some people try to make it fancy, but I say embrace the messiness of it all,” said caterer Lauren Lombardi, owner of Lombardi’s Love Lane Market in Mattituck. She typically rolls out some butcher paper on the table for easy clean up and dumps the bake right down the middle. “Honestly, you might as well get the bibs, too,” she added. Noah Schwartz, chef and co-owner of Noah’s in Greenport, also chooses this approach for a more homey and casual feel. “I definitely always like the really rustic style where you just bring out a bucket and kind of dump it on the table,” he said.
Time it right
Kaufer Grace & Grit suggests steaming or boiling all the different seafoods in different pots to make the cook times easier, and then finishing certain ingredients on the grill for extra flavor. “That way I know when stuff is going to be done,” he said. “If you utilize multiple vessels and a grill, you’re really in control.”
Amp up the flavor
Just because a clambake is casual doesn’t mean it has to be boring. Lombardi suggests boosting the flavors of the ocean by throwing in seaweed with the cooking liquid. “You can usually get it from your fishmonger,” she said. “That really brings out the saltiness of the ocean, like the essence of it all.” Schwartz will add andouille sausage with the seafood and corn “so it’s a little more of a Spanish style flavor with some smoked paprika” and drawn butter and clam stock on the side for dipping.
Elevate the bake
If you are looking to fancify a clambake, these experts have some suggestions. Use galvanized buckets for individual servings. “Everyone can have their own plated bowl that’s more composed with a little towel, lemon and lobster cracker,” Lombardi said. “It looks beautiful, it’s colorful, it has all the mixture, everyone has a little bit of everything.” Kaufer will still plate things family-style, but brings in fun garnishes like banana leaves to lay it all out on and colorful flowers to dress it up. Schwartz suggests setting everything out on a large oval platter and “arrange it so that everything is a little bit separate so that people can see what they want.”
Don’t overthink the bar
Now is not the time to stock the outdoor bar with a dozen different types of liquor and mixers. (If you’re noticing a theme, it’s to keep it simple.) “Here’s where I would definitely lean into the casualness of it,” Kaufer said. “The two best things with a clambake are ice-cold beer and white wine.” Schwartz goes with local Alberiños and rosés, “really nice seafood wines because they have a nice crisp acidity.” We like the Jamesport Vineyard Albariño and Sannino Vineyard Bianca Dolce Rosé.
Clambakes Made Even Easier
Whether you want just the food or an elaborate catered affair, call these North Fork clambake pros for help.
Can be customized, typically comes with mussels, lobster, clams and corn, can be delivered or picked-up. 222 Atlantic Avenue, Greenport, (631) 477-8485.
Served pit-style on the beach or tableside, the extras here include roasted chicken and steamers in Greenport Harbor beer and garlic broth. Call for availability. 30840 Main Road, Cutchogue, (631) 734-6700.
Full-service event planning and catering services at your home or a venue. Call to customize your lobster bake. 55750 Main Road, Southold, (631) 407-5278.
Comes with lobster, mussels, clams, shrimp, roasted potatoes and corn on the cob and a side salad. The clambake can be picked-up, delivered or cooked on site; 48 hour pre-order necessary. 363 Meeting House Creek Road, Aquebogue, (631) 722-3971.
Full customizable, comprehensive catering for off-premises events, including clambakes. Call to design your event. 170 Love Lane, Mattituck, NY 11952, (631) 298-9500.
Full-service, customizable catering and event planning. Noah’s pot-style North fork clambake includes Peconic Little Neck clams, shrimp, PEI mussels, Andouille sausage, Sep’s Sweet Corn, fennel, Long Island fingerling potatoes, grilled spiced free-range chicken and Satur Farms butter lettuce salad. 136 Front Street, Greenport, (631) 477-6720.
The market’s clambake — seen in these photos — can be customized, but typically comes with lobster, clams, mussels, steamers, corn and potatoes. It can be picked up or set up on site. Order at least a day in advance. 64755 NY-25, Southold, (631) 765-3200.