With New Years Eve around the corner, I wanted to share some great appetizers to serve your guests and ring in 2013 in a yummy way. This is a dish that Steve's (my husband) grandpa was famous for. Supposedly he made the best clams casino ever. Thankfully, he passed this recipe down to Steve's mom before he passed, and now Steve knows it as well. This is a great appetizer that can be prepared the morning or afternoon ahead of time and then popped in the oven when your guests arrive. This is the best clams casino you will ever eat. Cleaning and prepping the clams are disgusting, but the end product is so worth it. This is hero food. Thank you Papa Oscar!
30 Medium Size Clams - We buy Top Neck clams that we get from Sunset Foods in Highland Park. I will order them from the fish counter a day before I need them, and then pick them up that morning. 1 Green Pepper - finely chopped 1 Red Pepper - finely chopped 1/2 Sweet Onion - finely chopped Pimiento peppers, chopped and canned Several Cloves of Garlic - minced A stick of butter - melted 1 can of diced pimiento peppers Several strips of bacon - finely chopped (you want thin bacon that will crisp up easy under the broiler) Parsley - finely chopped Lemon wedges from 2 lemons preparation (Total preparation is probably about an hour or so) If you can get the grocer you are buying your clams from, to open them up, this will help you out and save you some time. If not, turn your oven on a low heat and put the clams in. After a few minutes, they will open up on their own. Pull them out of the oven. If they don't open up, discard these clams because they are no good. Once the clams are opened, you now need to scoop them out. I like to do this with a little pairing knife. You will notice 2 little muscles on each side that the clam is attached to. Slice these off and then you can scoop the clam out. I like to get all the clams out of the shells and into a pile before i start cleaning them. You will develop your own technique for taking them out of the shell, but i tend to hold the clams and the knife like i am about to peel an apple with a peering knife. You can then separate the clam, the membrane, or whatever from the clam shell fairly efficiently. From the 30 clams, you should have 60 shells. Take 30 with good size, pretty, nice shape and run them under cold water. Clean the shells, inside and out, and set aside. You can discard the remaining shells. Now its time to clean the clams. This part is disgusting. Each clams has one or two dark green poopy looking things. I don't know if these are organs, poop, or whatever, but cut these away from the clams and throw them out. It will be pretty obvious what part of the clams you want to get rid of. Set aside all the good clam meat on a cutting board. If you don't clean them as well as you want, don't worry, once they cook, you will never know. If you ever order clams casino in a restaurant, chances are they don't clean them like this at all, but rather leave all this crap from you to eat. Extra meat i guess.
The above 4 steps should take you about 45 minutes. If you got through it, good job. That was the tough and gross part. The rest of this is just putting it all together. Lay the 30 good and cleaned clam shells on 1 or 2 baking sheets. Chop up the claim meat a bit, and spoon it in each shell so all shells have an equal amount of meat and all the meat is used up. Combine your chopped garlic, peppers, onion in a bowl and mix. Generously distribute the mixture in each clam as well as on the baking sheet. You can be very sloppy, liberal, unscientific and just put a bunch of the mixture everywhere. This is where clams casino gets its name. The end product is very visually appealing, with a lot going on. Its crazy, like being inside a casino. (At least thats my take on it) Take out the frozen strips of bacon and either finely chopped them with a butchers knife or cut them with a scissors. Put several bits of bacon on the top of each clam (on top of the peppers and onion mixture). Make sure all clam shells have some bacon. I recommend freezing the strips of bacon as it makes them a lot easier and cleaner to cut up. Just lay a few strips on some parchment paper and put them in the freezer before your start prepping. Open up the jar of pimiento peppers and put 1 or 2 pimiento peppers on top of each clam.
Melt the butter in a bowl. Spoon the butter or use a baster and liberally distribute the melted butter to each clam, as well as on the baking sheet with the loose peppers and onions. The butter will help everything cook and crisp up. Put the baking sheet in a preheated over (325 degrees, middle rack). After about 25 minutes or so, when the peppers, onions, and bacon are looking cooked, turn on the broiler, move the clams up to the top rack and broiler for a few minutes until the bacon really crisps up and the peppers and onion take on some nice color. Don't take your eyes off them at this stage, as they can burn quick. Pull them out of the oven, squeeze some lemon juice all over and sprinkle some parsley. You can serve them to your guests straight from the baking sheet or transfer them to a serving platter. I highly recommend serving this with some warm toasted italian bread that has been thinly sliced. You use the bread to soak up all the yummy flavors from the baking sheet, and use it as a conduit to eat the extra peppers, onion, and bacon that is on the baking sheet. I recommend you eat these straight from the clam shell in bite. If you try to fork or spoon it out, it isn't the same. The clams are meant to be slurped in one bite, like a sushi roll. You can take the bread that is lighted toasted, and use this to soak up the goodies on the baking sheet. You serve these, you will be the hero. Enjoy, and think of Papa Oscar when you eat these!