By Kate Parham Kordsmeier
IT’S SUMMERTIME, AND perhaps no
ingredient is more appropriate for your next
cookout than meaty mollusks, such as mussels, clams and cockles. “Quick to prepare and
easy to pair with a wealth of ingredients, they
are a time-pressed cook’s friend, as well as
crowd-pleasing fare,” assures Kathy Hunt,
food writer, cooking instructor and author of
Fish Market (Running Press, 2013; not available at Costco). More good news? They’re
environmentally sustainable, so you can feel
good about every bite.
Bivalve basics and benefits
Mussels, cockles and clams are all bivalves,
which means that their bodies are protected
by two hinged shells. All three are low in fat
and mercury, and are high in zinc, omega- 3
fatty acids, iron and vitamin A. Both farmed
and grown in the wild, they vary in shell
shape, color and meat flavor.
“Cockles possess a mild briny taste and
beautifully ridged, heart-shaped shells,” says
Hunt. Cockles are actually small, edible saltwater clams, points out Nathan De Atley, seafood buyer at Costco.
Hunt says that other types of popular
clams have smooth, grayish shells and a sweet
Mussels, meanwhile, have a rich, sea flavor, and are usually black or dark blue in color
and oblong in shape, she says.
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch
Selection and storing
( seafoodwatch.org), which rates the sustain-
ability of seafood, cites clams, cockles and
mussels as a Best Choice or Good Alternative,
their top rankings, based on fishing method
The smaller the bivalve, the more tender
the meat will be, says Hunt, who recommends
avoiding any shellfish with broken or damaged shells, or any with strong odors. Nathan
says if they are moving slightly, slowly opening and closing to breathe, then they’re alive.
A good rule of thumb is to toss any cooked
mollusks with closed shells, as they were
probably dead prior to cooking.
At home, keep bivalves on ice in your
fridge and use them within a day or two.
Access to air is critical, so do not store them
in airtight containers. If you’d like to cover
them in the fridge, use a damp cloth, advises
Bill Mardon, assistant general merchandise
manager of seafood at Costco, and never store
them in water.
Prepping and cooking
You can rinse bivalves under fresh water
so that they purge, or release sand that can
find its way into the meat, but it’s not always
necessary. “Everything we carry goes through
a cleaning and purge process, so they don’t
need to be cleaned,” says Nathan. “You can
rinse them under fresh water, but you really
don’t need to as almost all are defect-free.”
Bill adds, “The beards [the thin threads
by which mussels attach themselves to rocks
and piers] have already been trimmed to
make prepping easier.”
Mollusks don’t need a complicated recipe
to shine. Nathan recommends steaming them
for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the shells have
opened. “They’re safe to eat once they’ve
reached 140 degrees. Just add a little butter,
garlic and acid—it could be lemon, lime, wine
or beer—and serve them with baguettes,
dipped in the sauce they’re cooked in.”
Hunt recommends adding the bivalves to
stews and grilling littleneck clams, which she
drizzles with lemon-basil butter. Mussels are
great grilled or smoked, or stuffed with an
herb-based stuffing and broiled for a few
minutes. “The most important thing is not to
overcook bivalves,” Hunt says, “or you’ll end
up with rubbery meat.” C
Kate Parham Kordsmeier (kateparhamkords
meier.com) is an Atlanta-based food and
travel writer, and cookbook author.
Grilled Clams with Lemon-Basil Butter
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
Juice of 1 lemon
Grated zest of 2 lemons
3 tablespoons minced fresh basil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 dozen medium-size hard-shelled clams,
Preheat the grill on high.
In a glass bowl in the microwave or in a small
pan on the stovetop, melt the butter. Allow the
butter to cool slightly, about 10 minutes, and
then add the lemon juice, zest, basil and pepper.
Stir together and set aside.
Place a layer of foil on the grill and then place
the clams on top of the foil. Cover the grill and
allow the clams to cook for 8 to 10 minutes.
After tossing out any unopened clams, place the
grilled clams in a bowl or on a platter and drizzle with the lemon-basil butter. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings.
Adapted from Fish Market (Running Press, 2013; not available
Out of the shell
The Costco Connection
West Coast Costco warehouses carry farmed
mussels (Penn Cove and Mediterranean species), Manila clams (November through July)
littleneck clams and wild cockles; East Coast
warehouses carry farmed blue mussels and
farmed and wild littleneck clams.
A how-to guide
for your table