Citizens, I grew up in New York City and one of my favorite meals was going to the local Italian-American restaurant, where this dish was my favorite appetizer.
The freshest clams, broiled with herbed butter, breadcrumbs and topped with bacon and a touch of Parmesan. This is indeed a glorious feast worthy of TFD and deserving to be in your personal recipe arsenal!
According to legend (and Wikipedia), the recipe for clams casino was originally developed in 1917 in the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, by a maître d’hôtel for a woman of means wanting something special for her guests.
Good Housekeeping Great American Classics attributes the dish to Mrs. Paran Stevens and maître d’hôtel Julius Keller. She named the dish after the hotel, and word and popularity of the dish has since spread across the United States, including New Orleans, where oysters are substituted for clams.
Clams casino remains a very popular dish in Rhode Island, appearing on almost every menu.
In the first decades of the 20th century, if a restaurant wanted to be noted, it came up with a dish that involved the baking of shellfish.
While there was a profusion of this type of menu offering (often with the meat taken out of the shell prepared with sauce and returned to the shell), clams casino and oysters Rockefeller are among the few surviving dishes from the shellfish fad.
The dish is popular with Italian-Americans, having “a permanent spot on just about every trattoria menu” in Little Italy, Manhattan, and is considered an American classic.
Clams casino is often served at Italian festivals and during the holidays in the United States.
My Citizens, unleash your inner Goodfella and enjoy my version of this classic recipe! I’ve enhanced the recipe by specifying top-quality vermouth instead of white wine, the use of thyme flowers (or thyme, if you prefer) and a bit of extra heat by using jalapeño instead of green bell pepper, amongst other tweaks.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
Rock salt, enough to cover bottom of broiling pan about ½-¾ inches deep
12 littleneck or cherrystone clams
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 teaspoons finely minced thyme flowers (preferred) or fresh thyme leaves
2 cloves garlic, pressed or finely minced
2 tbsp finely minced roasted red pepper
1 tbsp finely minced jalapeños
1 ½ tbsp finely minced shallot
2 ½ tbsp dry white wine or vermouth (highly preferred, I use Noilly Prat brand from France)
2 ½ tbsp coarse fresh breadcrumbs
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Good splash Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper
3 slices bacon
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Additional softened unsalted butter
Lemon wedges, for serving
Pre-heat oven to 500º Fahrenheit.
Arrange rock salt in broiling pan and pop in the oven to heat the salt.
In a small sauce pan heat butter over med heat; sauté shallots, pimentos, garlic and jalapeños until garlic and shallots soften.
Add wine/vermouth, Worcestershire, herbs and parsley and whisk until butter has melted and then simmer 1 minute. Grind in a few twists of black pepper. Add breadcrumbs and stir.
Take off heat, set aside.
Next, fry bacon over med-low heat until lightly browned but still undercooked.
Cut bacon crosswise into thin strips and set aside.
Boil some water mixed with wine or vermouth and any leftover herb stems in a medium pot, add clams and cover. Check them after a couple of minutes and remove clams that are just beginning to open with tongs.
Take broiling pan out of oven and get ready to arrange clams.
Being careful to not lose too much juice, twist top shell off of clam then carefully cut the bottom muscle from the shell.
Arrange clams on the salt and spoon some of the casino butter/bread crumb mixture over each one.
Place a few bacon pieces over each clam, then sprinkle with Parmesan. Top with a small amount (perhaps a ¼ teaspoon or so) of the softened butter.
Click oven up to broil, put in the clams and broil until Parmesan is melted and bubbling.
Serve with the lemon wedges or squeeze the wedges over the clams before serving.
Be sure and eat with bread to sop up the delicious clam juice/casino butter mixture from the shells!