Clambake Heaven - Indoors!

The clambake is an American culinary tradition dating back to the Native Americans and settlers.

It's an easy way to cook up some of nature's best of the summer, and the best part is that it can be done outdoors - on in. That's right - inside.

And on "The Early Show," Kerry Heffernan, executive chef of the South Gate restaurant at Manhattan's Central Park, served up pointers and recipes for making the perfect clambake in either setting.

He says the most important piece of equipment for an indoor or outdoor clambake is a heavy steamer or braising pot that has some heft and can take some heavy temperatures. You also want it to be deep, so you have a lot of room to pack in your layers.

"Early Show" recipes galore!

What you're really doing in a clambake is trying to create a large organic steam basket in a steamer pot by creating many layers of flavor. The bottom layer is usually the things that require sautéing, like your onions, your garlic, and your meat base, such as bacon or sausage. These items require sauteeing at the bottom of the pan before you begin to layer your fresh ingredients, so the bottom of the pot is your flavor base, your steaming liquid that will help all your other flavors along.

As far as building a clambake, you want to start with your heavier ingredients first -- such as potatoes. This is really because they take the longest time to cook. All the other layers are added according to cooking time, with the clams taking the least time.

You top the pan with either seaweed or kelp. You can usually find this at your market, or at your local specialty shop. If you have trouble finding it at your market, your fishmonger will usually have some. Just ask your fish counter man, and if he doesn't have any, he can point you in the right direction. The seaweed is there to create a top to your steam pile. It traps in the rising moisture before it even hits the top of your pot, and sends it back down, so the steaming is intense.

If you don't like clams, use shrimp! Don't like clam juice? Use white wine as your cooking liquid instead. Or perhaps you don't care for bacon as one of your flavor bases -- sausage is another great alternative.

Once you know the basic technique of steaming as outlined below, you can adapt this dish almost any way you like.

Clambake

2 1 1/4 pound lobsters, split in half
2 pounds of clams-Manila or Little Neck, medium sized
2 tablespoons of Canola Oil
2 leeks, sliced thin
2 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
8 slices of smoked bacon
2 cups of clam juice
1 pound of red new potatoes
6 fresh bay leaves
6 sprigs of fresh thyme
4 ears of corn, cut into thirds
1 pound of smoked kielbasa
Seaweed or Kelp, enough to cover the top of the pot

FOR THIS YOU WILL NEED: Large steamer pot or heavy Le Crueset Cast Iron Covered Braising Pot
In the bottom of a large pot heat the canola oil and add the bacon (or sausage), sliced leeks, and sliced garlic. Sweat all of these until soft and translucent. Then add the potatoes and equal parts clam juice and water until ingredients in the pot are mostly covered. Add bay leaves and thyme. Replace the lid on top at this point and bring to a rolling, strong boil. Uncover, add the lobster, kielbasa, corn, clams and top with seaweed. Then cover the clambake and allow to steam until done, 8 to 10 minutes.
Serve with dipping sauce, below.

Dipping Sauce

2 egg yolks
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 cup of canola oil divided
1 tablespoon of Old Bay seasoning
salt and pepper and to taste
12 fresh basil leaves, chopped

In a blender, add the yolks, the vinegar, the mustard, garlic, lemon zest and Old Bay Seasoning. Blend on medium speed for about 25 to 30 seconds. Reduce the speed to slow and drizzle 1/4 cup of the oil until combined. Turn off the blender and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Add the lemon juice. Turn the blender on to slow and add up to 1/4 cup more canola oil until the mixture is light and creamy. Fold in the chopped basil when ready to serve.

For more recipes, go to Page 2.