Grilled Littlenecks with Tarragon Butter

Grilled Littlenecks with Tarragon Butter

grilled littleneck clams

Summer is the time to use your grill for everything, and clams are no exception. Take a traditional New England seafood dinner to new heights by combining the scent of tarragon with the sweet, briny bite of littlenecks fresh off the grill. Use a pastry bag to make it even easier to add a dollop of the compound butter to each clam after they’re cooked.

Grilled Littlenecks with Tarragon Butter

Makes 40 clams; Serve 5 clams per person
Recipe by Anna Rossi

Total Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Active Cooking Time: 8 minutes
Difficulty: Moderate

  • 3 pounds littleneck clams, scrubbed
  • 2 cups alder or applewood chips
  • ½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallot
  • Salt, to taste
  • Clam knife for shucking
  • Smoker basket (optional)
  • Pastry piping bag for the compound butter (optional)

Preheat a charcoal grill, keeping the coals to one side to leave an empty space on the grill for indirect cooking. Alternately, preheat a gas grill to medium-high.

Using a clam shucking knife, shuck the littleneck clams. Remove the empty top half and run the blade beneath the clam meat to slice through the muscle that attaches the clam to the bottom shell. This will result in clams on the half shell and will make eating them after they have cooked easier, less messy, and more fun.

Arrange the shucked clams on a heatproof rack.

Sprinkle the woodchips in a smoker basket, or wrap them in an aluminum foil packet and poke some holes through the foil. Place the smoker basket or foil packet over the direct heat side of the grill.

Place the rack of clams on the indirect heat side of the grill. Close the grill lid to contain the heat and flavorful smoke. Cook the clams with the grill closed until the clam meat has firmed and turned pink, about 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a small mixing bowl, combine the butter, tarragon, shallot, and a pinch of salt. If desired, place the tarragon butter in a piping bag with a large round tip for easy application.

Once the clams have cooked, remove them from the grill and immediately add about a teaspoon of tarragon butter to each. The tarragon butter will melt and combine with the sweet clam liquor to make a delicious sauce. Serve immediately.

Photo by Rachel Bowman

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