Belated Birthday

Celebrations are wonderful:

Excuses to be happy and hide the frowns away, at least that is what I like about them. Even if you aren’t actually in a good mood, you feel it and become engulfed to the point where your smiles turn real.

Though it is a few days late, I would like to share a recipe and some images from my family’s Fourth weekend. We met on Fishers Island, off the coast of New London, CT, to set off fireworks, eat, lounge, and motorboat.

The morning of the Fourth, my dad, brother, uncle and I went out to swim and ended up, as we have a lot in our past visits, clamming with our feet.

You see, hard shell clams sit in the sand, about an inch under, with the more pointy side of their shell facing up. This makes them easy to feel with the balls of your feet as you walk around, teetering on tip-toe through the sand. After about 20 minutes, we had each dug up several and added them to my grandfather, Pop’s ever-growing collection (he loves these strange sea dwellers, but normally eats them raw).

That afternoon, my dad showed me how to make the most interesting and delicious seafood dish I have encountered thus far: Clams Casino. Recipe follows the pictures.

The cheese and crackers turned to clams, swordfish, and roasted veggies as the sun melted only to cue our explosions of color and sound, celebrating this nation dreaming of freedom, equality, and happiness for all.

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Clams Casino

yield: about 16 stuffed shells

Ingredients:

  • 12 hard shell clams
  • 1/4 cup each red, yellow, and green bell peppers (different colors are simply for aesthetics, use 3/4 cup whatever peppers you have)
  • 1/4 cup onion
  • 1/4 cup celery
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 4 slices bacon
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (plus 1-2 teaspoons for dusting)
  • 1 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese (for dusting)

Instructions:

  • place clams in rimmed pan (to catch juices) in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until all have cracked open about 1/2 a centimeter
  • carefully use knife to cut away muscles holding shell together: normally if you slice from one side towards the ‘binding’ of the shell you get through one muscle and then do the other side and pry open–without cutting your hand!
  • once opened, scrape clam out and place in bowl
  • proceed to scrape shell clean, discarding these pieces of muscle
  • repeat with all clams, only cleaning about 16 shells
  • cook the bacon until tender enough to dice (don’t wash pan)
  • while cooking, chop the clams and then bacon, once ready
  • after bacon is cut up, put it and garlic, onions, and peppers back in bacon pan, adding the spices once almost soft
  • combine clams and vegetables/bacon mixture in a bowl and let cool
  • while cooling, measure and add bread crumbs
  • combine with your hands until mixture is evenly distributed, adding more bread crumbs if sticky. end result should be almost a batter–not too sticky, nor too dry
  • place about 1/4 cup of the mixture in each clam shell, sprinkling with parmesan cheese, parsley and smoked paprika
  • cook at 450 degrees for about 10-15 minutes, or until cheese melts
  • serve immediately
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