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Baked Clams with Bacon and Rosemary

Serves: Makes 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 3 strips thick-cut bacon, cut into ¼-inch pieces
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • ½ cup dry vermouth
  • ½ cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 3 pounds live Manila or other hard-shell clams
  • 1½ to 2 inches across, rinsed
  • ⅓ cup plain dried bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup chopped green onions
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼cup grated Parmesan cheese


Procedures:

This is a recipe that takes me back to my early 20s, when work led me to New York City and I tasted clams Casino for the first time in Little Italy. I add fresh rosemary to my version of that classic dish, with the traditional bacon blended into the cooked clam mixture rather than simply topping the whole clam. As a sit-down first course, I’d recommend serving six clams per person on a small plate. For cocktail party– style service, I’ll serve just two clams on a smaller plate, with a two-pronged cocktail pick.
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.


  2. Cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 3 to 4 minutes, until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside. Melt the butter in a small skillet or saucepan over medium-low heat, stir in the garlic, and set aside.


  3. Combine the vermouth and onion in a large pot and cook over medium heat 1 to 2 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the clams, cover, and steam, gently shaking the pot occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the clams open. Every couple of minutes, use a large slotted spoon to scoop the open clams into a bowl. Discard any clams that haven't opened after 10 minutes; reserve the cooking liquid in the pot.


  4. When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat from the shells, reserving the shells. Separate the shell halves and keep half of each, rinsing and drying the shells.


  5. Combine the bacon, garlic butter, 1 tablespoon of the clam cooking liquid, the bread crumbs, green onions, parsley, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a food processor and pulse 4 or 5 times to blend well; don't overprocess to a smooth paste. Scrape down the sides, add the clam meat, and pulse 3 or 4 more times to chop the clams. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir to be sure ingredients are well blended.


  6. Mound about 1 teaspoon of the clam mixture into each of the reserved clam shells (the exact amount needed will vary with the size of the shells) and set them on the baking sheet. Top each clam with a pinch of the cheese and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is lightly browned. Transfer the clams to individual plates or a platter to serve.

by Sur La Table & Renée Behnke

 
 
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