Grilled Clams and Oysters with Barbecue Sauce

Makes 6 first course servings
Time: 15 minutes

This is a straightforward, easy-to-execute dish, providing you've got your clams and oysters shucked. Unfortunately, shucking either intimidates or frustrates pretty much every home cook I know, including me.

It's not so much the combination of clams and oysters that is important here, but the freshness of the mollusks you buy. So if the oysters look better than the clams at your fish market, do all oysters; if the oysters look raggedy, load the grill up with clams (mussels will work too, or scallops on the half-shell if you can find them). And don't fret about the varieties you're buying: Freshness is the only imperative. Whether you get local littleneck clams, or fist-size oysters from the Gulf of Mexico, this recipe will work perfectly. Serve with cold beer.

36 clams, oysters, or (preferably) a combination
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce, or to taste
The juice of 1/2 lemon
Salt and black pepper
Lemon wedges for serving

1. Build a multilevel fire in your grill (using hardwood charcoal, if possible): Leave one-quarter of the bottom free of coals; in the rest of the grill, bank the coals so that they are about 3 times as high on one side as the other. When the coals are all white and the temperature has died down to medium, 20 to 30 minutes after you light the fire (you should be able to hold your hand about 5 inches above the hot part of the grill for a few seconds), you?re ready to cook. Meanwhile, scrub the clams and oysters with a stiff brush, then shuck them and detach them from their bottom shells.

2. Make the barbecue sauce: Combine the butter, garlic, Tabasco, lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste in a small saucepan and simmer over low heat, cooking the sauce until the flavors have melded and the garlic has lost its raw bite, 5 to 10 minutes.

3. Arrange the mollusks over the hot part of the grill and baste each with a little of the sauce. Cook until the sauce bubbles and simmers for just a minute, then carefully transfer the clams and oysters to a platter and serve at once (be careful; the shells are hot), with the lemon wedges.