Thai-inspired Steamed Clams

I picked up a 5lb bag of live clams from Costco and knew I wanted to make some kind of soup-like dish where you could soak up the delicious clam juices with crusty French bread. Rummaging around in my pantry and refrigerator, I spied coconut milk, fish sauce, cilantro and limes - perfect for a Thai-inspired Tom Kha Gai-like soup, subbing clams for the chicken or shrimp.

If you buy your clams from the supermarket (as opposed to digging them up yourself in the wild), there's no need to purge the clams of sand. The supermarkets have usually taken care of that. When you get your clams home, remove any plastic packaging so they can breathe. It's best to cook the clams the same day, but if for some reason you can't, store them in the refrigerator with a moist dishtowel over them. Don't soak them in water! Saltwater clams cannot survive in fresh water.

When you're ready to cook, rinse the clams and set in a colander to drain.

Cooking time is very quick; it all came together in less than 30 minutes. And the sure sign it was a big hit? During dinner, I didn't hear a peep from anyone, just a lot of loud slurping!

Thai-inspired Steamed Clams
Serves 6

In a large colander, rinse and drain:
5 lbs live clams (discard clams that do not close when tapped as well as any with broken shells)

Over medium heat in a large 5-6 qt Dutch oven or heavy stockpot, heat a glug of oil and saute for 1-2 minutes, without browning:
1 small red onion, diced
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
Zest from 1-2 limes
3 cloves garlic, minced

Add to stockpot:
2 - 14oz cans diced tomatoes
2- 14oz cans coconut milk
1/4 cup fish sauce

Bring to a gentle simmer, then add the clams. Stir to submerge as many clams as possible.

Bring back to a gentle simmer, then cover with lid and cook for anywhere from 4-8 minutes, depending on size of clams. Clams are done when shells are wide open. Look into the pot every couple of minutes to check and at the same time stir the clams to heat evenly.

When clams are done, turn off heat and stir in:
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (about 4-5 limes)

Taste broth and adjust, adding more fish sauce (salty) or lime juice (sour) as desired. Discard any clams that did not open.

Ladle into wide bowls and garnish with:
scallions, sliced thinly on the diagonal
fresh cilantro leaves

Don't forget to serve with thick slices of crusty bread to sop up every drop of that flavorful broth!

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