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Walker shares her recipe  for ‘Ultimate Clams Casino’

Food For Thought
By Deborah Lee Walker | Jul 20, 2017

(July 21, 2017) I adore clams. It does not make a difference whether it is clams casino, baked clams, clams oreganata, steamed clams, fried clams, linguini with clam sauce, spaghetti alle vongole, or fabes con almejas. All I know is that I am undeniably in love with clams.

These bivalve mollusks play havoc on my senses. A slightly chewy edge contrasts delightfully with the soft center. The piece de resistance is when I nibble on these little babies; a salty deliciousness permeates my inner being and satisfies my every desire.

As someone who proclaims their eternal adoration, I must confess that I have never prepared clams casino. Needless to say, this dish is popular on the Eastern Shore and I felt the need to research it.

Clams casino has a very interesting history. It is believed that Julius Keller invented the dish at a casino located in New York City’s Narragenscott Pier (1917) to please the wealthy patron Mrs. Paran Stevens. However, The Truth about Clams Casino written by Lynn M. Olver challenges the popular accepted facts. This is an interesting article and I highly suggest reading it.

The history of clams casino may never turn the page of finality but its tradition and possibility for personal interpretation seems limited. I always teach my “little chefs” in my children’s cooking classes the importance of confidence and developing your own style. On that note, allow me to share my point of view and how I came up with the following clams casino recipe.

The first consideration is the type of clam one should use. Cherrystone or littlenecks are the popular choice, but I prefer Mahogany clams. Mahogany clams are another variety of hard-shell clams, easily recognizable by the reddish-brown color of their shells. Commercially known as ocean quahogs, they can grow quite large, but most are harvested in the 1 ½ to 3-inch range.

Mahogany clams are meatier while still retaining a tenderness which reiterates the theme of deliciousness. These clams can be purchased at Harris Teeter and are very inexpensive. Canned, chopped clams are added to the casino butter for even more clam goodness.

Sautéed onions, garlic, celery and orange peppers add a natural fortified stock to the dish while at the same time providing texture. There are not many ingredients in your typical clams casino recipe, so every detailed decision is of the utmost importance.

What would clams casino be without bacon? In the following recipe, bacon is a key component. Chopped bacon is incorporated into the casino butter. A slight drizzle of bacon fat is also added to the clams themselves. In addition, each clam is topped with a sizable piece of bacon.

This Ultimate Clams Casino recipe is packed with flavors and textures that highlight the natural essence of the clams. This recipe will yield more casino butter that one will need. Freeze it for future use; you will never know when one has unexpected company. Enjoy!

 

The Ultimate Clams Casino

Ingredients:

1 pound bacon

1 yellow onion, finely chopped

5 large cloves garlic, minced

3 stalks celery, finely chopped

½ orange bell pepper, finely chopped

¼ cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

few pinches of dried red pepper flakes

8 ounces dry white wine

8 ounces clam broth

juice of 2 lemons

24 Mahogany clams

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature

2 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams, drained

kosher salt to taste

1. Scrub clams and soak in cold, salted water for 2 hours.

2. In a large sauté pan, cook bacon over medium heat until it is crisp. Place cooked bacon on a plate lined with paper towels. Keep 3 tablespoons of bacon drippings in the pan and pour the rest of the drippings in a small bowl. Set aside.

3. Lower heat to medium-low and stir in onions, garlic, celery, orange pepper, parsley and red pepper seeds. Cook until vegetables become translucent. Remove pan from heat.

4. In a second large sauté pan over medium-high heat, add wine, clam broth, lemon juice and clams. Cover and cook, checking occasionally until the clams begin to open. Using tongs, transfer opened clams to a large bowl to cool, continue to cover sauté pan and check frequently for opened clams. Continue this process until the last clam has opened. If a clam does not open, it must be discarded.

5. Remove lid and cook the clam broth until it has reduced and you are left with approximately 3 tablespoons of liquid. Remove pan from heat and allow to cool.

6. In the meantime, working one at a time, pry off the top shell of each clam, making sure no shell fragments get into the bottom half of the clam. Using a sharp knife, cut the adductor muscle to free the clam from its shell.

7. Chop two-thirds of the bacon. Set aside.

8. In a medium bowl, blend butter with chopped bacon, vegetable mixture, canned chopped clams and reduced clam broth. Season butter mixture with salt.

9. Using a small spoon, place a small amount of clam butter over each clam. Try to fill the shell with the butter, this is where the majority of the flavor is coming from. Add a drizzle of bacon drippings and top with 1-inch piece of bacon.

10. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

11. Place clams on a baking sheet and cook until the butter has melted and clams are fully heated, about 4 minutes. Serve immediately.

Secret Ingredient - Education. “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.”

— Albert Einstein

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