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Clams Casino

36 littleneck clams
4 tablespoons finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
2 red or yellow bell peppers, roasted and peeled (see below), cut into 1-inch squares
12 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch squares
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Shuck clams as described below, reserving clam juice and arranging clams on the half shell side by side in 13-by-11-inch baking dish. Strain clam juice through cheesecloth or very fine sieve into baking dish.

Sprinkle some parsley over clams. Top each clam with a square of roasted pepper. Cover pepper with 2 squares bacon. Using 3 tablespoons butter, dot tops of each clam with butter. Cut up remaining butter; tuck in and around clams. Pour wine and remaining parsley into baking dish.

Bake until bacon is crisp and pan juices bubbling, about 12 minutes. Arrange clams on warmed platter or individual plates. Pour pan juices into small saucepan and boil until lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Spoon juices over clams. Serve immediately. Makes 6 servings

To shuck hard-shell clams: To open clams, you will need a clam knife -- a thick-handled, round-tipped and blunt-edged knife designed specifically for this purpose. Don't use a paring knife.

Place clams in a large bowl of cold water and swish to clean them. With stiff brush, scrub shells, including the joints. Dump cleaned clams into a colander. Rinse under cold water. Drain. Spread clams in a baking pan and place in freezer for 20 minutes.

Take a look at a clam. You'll notice one side is evenly rounded and one side has a pronounced protrusion. With your hands over a bowl to catch juices, place a clam in the palm of your non-knife-wielding hand so the hinge and smooth side of shell rest against the fleshy part of your palm, at the base of your thumb. Insert the blade of the knife between the 2 shells against the little protrusion and, while applying firm pressure, wiggle blade between the shells.

Once shells are pried apart, work knife blade along top shell, freeing the clam and cutting through the 2 muscles that hold shells together. Twist off and discard top shell. Run knife along the bottom shell, cutting through the 2 muscles and completely freeing the clam.

Flick any bits of shell out of clam with knife tip. You can rinse clams, but you'll lose a lot of flavor. Strain reserved liquid through cheesecloth.

Two ways to roast a bell pepper: Choose thick-fleshed peppers that are boxy in shape -- they will char more evenly and be easier to peel.

Turn gas burners on high and, working with long-handled tongs, place peppers on grates directly over flames. Roast peppers, turning as necessary, until evenly blackened on all sides, about 8 minutes. Remove peppers to a bowl; and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until cool enough to handle, about 40 minutes.

Or, place a rack in the uppermost position and preheat oven to 475 degrees. Put peppers on a baking sheet and roast, turning as necessary, until all sides are evenly blackened, about 12 minutes. Remove peppers to a bowl; cover tightly with plastic wrap as above.

To peel peppers: Pull out stems and hold peppers upside down, letting seeds and juices flow out. Cut peppers in half lengthwise and, using a short knife, scrape away blackened skin, ribs and remaining seeds.

"Lidia's American Kitchen" by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich

Thursday, November 01, 2001

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