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Bring the beach home: 'Cooking Out' celebrates a summer tradition

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Michelle Rose / TV Media
Michael Symon, host of "Symon's Dinner Cooking Out"

Michael Symon, host of "Symon's Dinner Cooking Out"

Life ain't exactly a beach in 2020. But if you're in need of a mood-busting food experience right now, or if you're craving some serious sea-soaked flavors, Food Network chef Michael Symon can show you how to enjoy a beach tradition without venturing far from home.

The Aug. 30 episode of "Symon's Dinners Cooking Out" is one for shellfish eaters because it's a celebration of the great American clambake tradition. Of course, given the pandemic-inspired "stay at home" message behind this self-shot series, you're not going to see any beach shots of Symon digging a hole to cook in the sand. Instead, Symon will be firing up the grill in his own backyard, as he has for all previous episodes.

In "Clambake on the Grill," Symon demonstrates how the secret to a successful clambake is good prep work, and then you can let the grill (and the foil) do the rest of the work for you. He'll walk you through all the steps for prepping foil packets of clams with sausage and peppers, which are placed over coals and steamed. This is the same technique that's used to prepare peaches with mascarpone and honey for dessert, and a refreshing sangria that completes this summer meal.

Clambakes are often associated with New England, since this modern beach cookout tradition originated in the region. Note the use of the word "modern": that's because beach cooking was a tradition in many Indigenous cultures long before first contact with European colonists.

But according to author Kathy Neustadt, the annual clambake tradition took root a few years after the American Revolution. It became wildly popular in the 1800s, when a different revolution, the Industrial Revolution, freed up more time for leisure activities like picnics. And now, the clambake is ingrained in New England culture, though other regions have put their own twist on it.

Given this history, you might be surprised to learn that clambakes are a big deal in Cleveland (and some would argue a bigger deal than on the East Coast). It's actually a fall staple there, and during that time, it's been said that more clams are shipped to Cleveland than any other city.

Symon hails from Cleveland, and the recipe he shares in the Aug. 30 episode of "Symon's Dinners Cooking Out" is his own grill-friendly twist on the one-pot Cleveland clambake. It might not be a traditional recipe, but given that Labor Day is next weekend, it's still a great way to enjoy summer flavors as we (gulp) inch closer to fall.