Clams Casino – “the recipe”

I had to add “the recipe” after noticing that there’s a musician who, for some reason changed his name from Mike Volpe to Clams Casino.  I LOVE clams casino, but I don’t think I love them enough to change my name to Clams Casino.  I just wonder why a guy named Mike Volpe would decide to do that – was he sitting in a restaurant and wanted to make sure he remembered the delectable appetizer he was eating and decided “hey if I start calling myself Clams Casino, I’ll always remember what I want to order”.

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I finally have everything put away in the kitchen cabinets – maybe not completely organized, but at least out of boxes.  I think I need a class in the Bosch stove though since I haven’t had any luck starting the warming oven when the large oven is on…”Yes, Chancellor Merkel, I’ve read the instructions on this and followed your directions”.  I’ll give it another go when I’m not desperate to get a meal on the table and if it doesn’t seem to be working, I’ll call the store where I bought it for instructions.

Speaking of the stove…it’s a flattop with a triple burner that has options for small, medium and large pots, a small burner in the back, and 2 small burners on the left with a bridge unit between them which can accommodate a very large pot or rectangular pan like a turkey roasting pan.  The thing is that for safety purposes, if you don’t have a pot on a unit and turn it on, it will shut off after a certain amount of time.  That’s a good feature since how often have I thought I turned on the back unit only to walk back in and found the front unit burning brightly red.  The downside to that safety feature is that if you have banged up old pots that don’t have flat bottoms covering enough surface area of the unit, it will assume there’s no pot on and shut down.  This happened to me when I was cooking Chicken with Mascarpone Sauce & Mustard.  I was so busy cooking the chicken on the front unit that I didn’t noticed the noodle pot in back had shut off and the noodles were still crunchy when I was ready to serve the meal.

The next meal, I had 3 units going and was on the look-out for wobblers.  I kept peeking under the pots and pans and the minute I saw the unit go dark, the bad pot would get tossed faster than you can say Clams Casino and replaced with a new one from the stack on hand.  (I have tons of pots and pans – my own cast iron from when I got married, some from my mother’s house, even more from John’s mother’s and aunt’s houses).  By the time that meal got cooked, I had piles of pots and pans in the basement headed for the give-away shed at the dump and I was looking online at the cost of brand new pots and pans – wow is all I can say!  My husband kept saying how he didn’t think they were that wobbly – but then again, he was probably the one whose head dented them.  And then I read some more of the stove instructions….”units will cycle on and off while cooking to prevent the glass top from shattering”.

Oooh…  “John would you please bring all those boxes back upstairs?”  Now that first pot that didn’t cook the noodles was definitely a goner but as it turns out, all of the other pots and pans were fine – just victims of the unit’s cycling.  I apologize to whoever was going to inherit lots of pots and pans from the shed next week but I’m tapped out right now with Christmas shopping and all that.  I’ve rescued almost all of my pots and pans so let’s get on to the Clams Casino.  This is an appetizer that I think a lot of people will order in a restaurant but shy away from making at home because of having to shuck the clams.  I’ll tell you about a little trick for helping to make that easier.

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The topping amount is for about 10-12 fresh cherrystone clams and best prepared before opening clams.  The ratio of ingredients is approximate and looks about like this:

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–  Olive Oil – 2 TBL
–  Bacon- 3-4 slices
–  Thin strips of red bell peppers, 3-4 thin slices, diced
–  Sweet onion,  about 1/4 cup, minced
–  Garlic cloves, 2, minced
–  Oregano – a dash or 2
–  White wine- 1/3 cup
–  Tabasco sauce – dash, more if you like but you can set some in a dish for dipping
–  Freshly grated Parmesan – 6 TBL
–  Bread crumbs – 1/4 cup

In a heavy saucepan, cook bacon strips and drain excess fat.  Using either a little of the bacon fat or olive oil, sauté the bell pepper and onions until translucent, then add garlic for just a minute.  Sprinkle oregano then add the wine, simmering until it’s almost evaporated.  Add a dash or 2 of Tabasco/hot sauce and about half of the Parmesan cheese.  Stir in breadcrumbs – you might not need 1/4 cup, just enough to hold the mixture together.   Set aside while preheating oven to 500°.

Making the mixture’s the easy part, but sometimes opening the clams up can be a little difficult & dangerous.  Rinse your clams, then place in a foil lined baking pan and stick them in the oven for a couple of minutes.  This will help them to open up a little.  Use an oven mitt for the hand that will be holding the clam and a short bladed sturdy knife to completely open the clam at the hinges.  Believe me, use the mitt or some kind of protective glove because you WILL end up in the emergency room.  Find a spot near the hinge where the shells have separated and work the blade in there, then twist to open.  You’re clam will be stuck to the top and bottom like the top clam here:

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Rinse the clam again to get rid of any sand, then run your knife blade under each clam bottom to release from the shell.  Pull one of the shells off leaving the whole clam on one of the shells (bottom clam).  If you have any clams that haven’t opened and you can’t get the blade between the shells, discard since that’s a dead clam and you DO NOT want to eat those!

Line the clams back up on the foil lined baking dish, load them up with the topping and bake for no more than 10 minutes.  When the clams come out sprinkle each with the remaining Parmesan cheese.  Not so bad – right?

I served these with baked haddock that had just a little sprinkling of breadcrumbs, butter, and lemon.

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See the little butterfly dish with the red sauce?  That was Tabasco, really just for the picture but my husband assumed it was some kind of dipping sauce and before I could warn him, he’d drenched his first clam and with the Tabasco dripping off, popped it into his mouth.  Uh oh… while I was enjoying my clams thoroughly, he was crying complaining that he couldn’t feel his lips or taste anything.  Sort of like when he grabbed my arthritis cream thinking it was toothpaste and brushed his teeth with it.   Maybe you like spicy (and he does) but it was a bit much even for him.

One final word of warning:  Remember those shells and dead clams that you tossed away?  Don’t leave them in your kitchen trash for too long.  It’s like that saying about fish and overnight guests…and reminds me of a little situation years ago.  We took our daughter to the beach where she collected buckets of sea glass and shells.  About a week later I went out to read on the porch and GAG!!!  I thought I had a dead body under the porch and wasn’t sure who to call until I realized that Niki had collected buckets of of live mussels and clams and shoved them under the porch a week in 80° heat.

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