As iconic as the lighthouses dotting the coast, a New England clambake is a party tradition where lobsters, corn, potatoes, sausage, and of course clams are cooked over hot rocks and seaweed in a big sandpit. No beach? No worries! With my easy ideas, you can host a coast-worthy clambake right in your own backyard.
Here are my ideas for you to bring the surf to your turf with my super-simple at-home clambake party ... no beach required!
Make Your Plan
Ask friends to don their beachy best, and start the party late in the day to take advantage of evening breezes and maximize bonfire time.
Recreate beach-roasted deliciousness at home by adding a metal smoker box filled with soaked applewood chips to your grill, and maybe borrow a second one if you're hosting a crowd. (Note: If you don't have the capability to cook outside, this whole menu can be done indoors as well.)
Set the Scene
Seashells, fishing nets and poles, hemp rope ... almost anything nautical or beachy works great for décor. Create a conversation circle with beach chairs set around a chiminea or build an impromptu pit with a few Duraflame logs and a ring of bricks or large stones.
This meal's a messy one, so stick to vinyl tablecloths for easy cleanup. The traditional red and white checkered pattern is a clambake classic but anything with a seashells or beach scenes will work great. Grab a few large sand pails for discarded shells and add a separate buffet table to keep things easy.
Pre-wrap silverware in napkins and tuck them in individual mason jars with a pack of oyster crackers, some wet wipes, a lobster cracker and bib. Guests can grab one as they fill their plates and once they dump their place settings, and fill the jar with beverages from pitchers on the table.
Feed the Folks
Pre-order seafood from your fish monger (or online) and pick up corn, potatoes, butter and sausage.The rule of thumb is for 6 people you’ll need approximately: 6 ears corn, 1 ½ lb potatoes, 6 1-lb lobsters, 36 clams, 3 lbs mussels, 3 lbs linguica or spicy Italian sausage
Fill pitchers or beverage dispensers with water, lemonade, and iced tea for guests to self-serve in their mason jars. My [Lose Your Shoes Margaritas] are a great addition, and tubs of bottled beer are a natural. Pre-make other cocktail options in sealed mason jars, and nestle them in with the beer. Need more space? A kiddie pool filled with ice is a fun touch!
Here are some tips for pulling together the food with indoor & outdoor cooking options:
- Serve everything up family-style on large platters
- Precook potatoes the day before in the microwave or boiling water until they're fork-tender
- Shuck corn ahead of time and cook and toss it with butter before everyone arrives (be sure to keep it warm)
- Cube butter and put it in small bowls the night before to melt and put out
- Drop your live lobster directly into the boiling water, or halve it (again, live) then grill it 10 minutes before serving at the party
- Sausage can either be precooked inside and warmed in the oven, or thrown on the grill with the lobster
- You can either bake or steam your clams and mussels inside, or toss 'em on the grill with everything else
- If you’re using a smoker, cook shellfish and potatoes in a pan together until shellfish open. Follow with sausage and lobster in another pan.
- For dessert ideas think Maine Blueberry pie, watermelon slices, and firepit s’mores
Note: For those of you who are squeamish about the live lobster situation or prefer a simpler menu, buy precooked lobster meat or lobster salad. Use small dinner rolls to make adorable lobster roll sliders and grab a large container of potato salad from your deli to serve on the side. From there, you just have to steam clams and put out pre-cooked sausage and corn. Done!
Once your guests arrive, let the bon fire, relaxation, and fun ensue. Pipe some ocean sounds through your speakers or throw on the Beach Boys Pandora channel and chill out.
Other fun ideas include:
- Cheap kiddie pools filled with water to soak feet, or with sand to hold a sandcastle contest.
- Frizbees, hula hoops, and bottles of bubbles
- Set up a slip n' slide, if you dare!
Share ghost stories and s’mores around the fire pit late night and create a fun summer vacation experience -no tickets necessary.
What’s your favorite? Clams, mussels or lobster?