Clams off the Half Shell: This Recipe for Clam Dip Is Exactly What Your Summer Is Missing


One of the unsurpassed joys of summer is eating outside: on the patio, the deck, in the yard, at the park. You can do most of the food directly on the grill or grilled in foil, to avoid scrubbing pots and pans, even if you’re cooking over charcoal. Nobody is expected to dress up: kids can come straight from the pool to the table; players can come right from the baseball or touch football field. Meanwhile, your appetizers fill the gap until the chicken or steaks or hotdogs and hamburgers are ready.

My brother-in-law is a master at the grill. My sister tells him what to do and he does it, graciously. When guests arrive, they lend a hand putting out the apps: cheeses, guacamole, hummus, crackers, shrimp, olives, etcetera. Jon fixes drinks. Judy puts the finishing touches on anything that has had to be cooked in the kitchen, like mac and cheese.  A vat of water steams on a back burner, ready for the corn at the last minute. The toaster oven dings. Once again, Judy has made the toothsome clam dip everyone has come to expect.

The entire procedure for the clam dip (or clam “pie”) takes about half an hour using canned clams (or providing you’ve opened and chopped the clams ahead of time, if you’re using fresh clams)*, so serving can be synched with the rest of the appetizers, Judy says. It serves 6-8 people, depending on the quantity of the other options on the table. If you have a large enough toaster oven for a baking dish, you don’t even have to turn on the oven. If you’re taking the dip elsewhere, cook the dip in an aluminum container with a lid for travel. Judy keeps extra cans of Durkee chopped clams in her pantry, so she can make the dip at the drop of a hat.

Here’s how Judy makes her version:

Clam Dip or “Pie”

  • 2 cans chopped (not minced) clams, drained with brine reserved in separate bowl
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Italian seasoned bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley (more if fresh)
  • fresh lemon juice from 1/2 lemon
  • Grated parmesan cheese for topping

Melt the butter in a sauté pan. Add onions and cook over medium heat until translucent, not brown. Add garlic and all spices. Mix well. Add clams to combine. Add bread crumbs, mixing well, and turn off the burner. Stir in the reserved clam brine until well blended. The batter will look loose, but it will thicken as you stir. Taste to see if the spices are “right” for you. Adjust spices if necessary. Place the mixture in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish, a round casserole, or the foil equivalent, top with parmesan cheese, and bake at 375-400 degrees for about 15-20 minutes until bubbly, and the top is browned. Serve the hot dip with Scoops to eliminate serving spoons.

*Note from JB:

If you use fresh clams, you’ll want the equivalent of two 6.5 ounce cans. Shuck the clams over a bowl to catch the liquor. That should give you the equivalent amount of brine. Strain the brine through a fine mesh strainer to catch any sand or shell particles. Coarsely chop the clams; don’t mince them.