Littleneck clams -- 01/11/12

So... last night I had bunch of littleneck clams...

Three dozen of them (which came to about three pounds). I hadn't been sure what to make: clam chowder or clams casino. So I decided to make both.

The first thing you need to do is to wash the clams to get rid of all the sand and grit. This can take a couple of hours. No, I'm not kidding. You need to rinse them thoroughly with running water. Pour off the water (and the sand) and then fill it up again and add some salt. Let it sit for twenty or thirty minutes. Pour off the water (and the sand). Rinse. Add water and salt and let it sit for twenty or thirty minutes. Repeat this process until the clams seem to be really clean (and there is no longer any sand in the water).

To make the chowder, you need some bacon grease (i.e., cook some bacon, set the bacon aside, and put the bacon grease in the pot you are going to make the chowder in). I mostly followed the recipe given by Michael Chu at his Cooking for Engineers site, except I doubled it and I added chopped celery when I sauteed the chopped onion. Pictured: potatoes, onions, celery cooking in clam juice.

And while that is simmering, I chopped up stuff for the clams casino. Pictured below, chopped garlic, chopped white onion, chopped shallot, and chopped red and green peppers.

Take the skillet the bacon had been cooked in. Despite using most of it to saute the onions and celery and potatoes for the chowder, there should still be a bit of bacon grease in the skillet. Add some olive oil and some unsalted butter, heat, add the onion, garlic, shallot, and peppers... saute for a couple of minutes... add some white wine and reduce...

And the clams -- after they are finally clean, you need to get them open. The easy way is to steam them. You can see the results of that in the photograph below. (By the way, when you are are washing them to get rid of the sand, discard any that are open and also discard any with a broken shell. Now, when you steam them, their shells open. Discard any that do not open. I had a nice fresh batch -- these guys were fresh from Narragansett Bay, all thirty-six clams were good.)

Give them a few minutes to cool so that they are not too hot to handle. Remove the clam meat and chop it into small pieces. Add the chopped clam to the chowder. Add the mixture of milk and cream to the chowder (I used half-and-half with some heavy cream mixed in) and heat it (but do not bring it to a boil).

Take the rest of the chopped clam meat and add it to the onions and peppers, etc. in the skillet. Also add some bread crumbs. (I used panko crumbs but you could also use crushed crackers, such as Ritz.) Stir. Season. Take some of the empty clam shells and fill with this mixture. Stick a piece of bacon into the top of the filling in each shell. Bake in a hot oven. (See photograph below.)

Now, back to the chowder. After it has been slowly cooking for ten minutes or so, taste it and adjust the seasoning. I used black pepper, Old Bay seasoning, and a small amount of sea salt (since I try to follow a sodium-restricted diet).

This is when you want to get the seasoned flavor adjusted to your taste.

This is a photograph of a bowl of chowder ready to eat. I garnished it with some crumbled pieces of bacon. (The recipe called for garnishing with bacon and parsley, but I didn't have any fresh parsley.)

Below you can see the rest of the meal: oven-roasted garlic bread, clams casino, and a mesclun mix salad with sliced red onions and strips of smoked salmon.

And, since I had made so much last night, there is enough left over for us to have the same meal tonight!


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