½ pound butter, unsalted
½ cup white wine
36 littleneck clams
2 lemons, cut in half
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste (white pepper is best if you have it)
1. Combine the butter and clams in a shallow baking pan that can hold all of the clams and withstand low heat on your grill.
2. Wash the clams well to remove sand and excess dirt.
3. Approach the grill: You should have your tongs, your pan containing the butter and wine, a serving platter, and another large platter containing the clams, lemons, parsley and salt and pepper. Some particular attention should be paid to the fire for this preparation. You want to have half your fire medium-high heat, and the other half medium-low.
4. Place the pan with the butter and wine in it on the low-heat side of the grill, and place the clams on the rack on the high-heat side.
5. The clams will open when cooked. This should take about 8 to 11 minutes, depending on your fire.
6. As the clams open, place them in the butter-wine mixture. When all the clams have opened, place them on a serving platter, squeeze the lemon halves over them and sprinkle them with parsley and salt and pepper to taste.
Recipe courtesy of The Thrill of the Grill by Christopher Schlesinger and John Willoughby, Chronical Books, 1996.
When Chris Schlesinger wrote his first cookbook on grilling, The Thrill of the Grill by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, he included this recipe from his good friend and fellow chef Steve Johnson. Steve was a caterer at that time, and this was one of his favorite dishes because it never failed to attract an audience while he was at the grill making Clams Johnson. When people saw the clams sitting in the broth they would of course want to try one and he would offer.
You can make the presentation a little more elegant if you wish, by serving on a fancier plate or removing the clams from the shells. What is most important, however, is that when you are standing at the grill and making the dish, be ready to offer anybody who wanders over a clam because it is hard to look at these and not want to try one.
Chris and Steve have reunited in this video to make Clams Johnson, but the exact recipe from Steve seems to have evolved over the years. We can show you the original recipe and in this video you can see how it has changed.