There are things that I do, or don't do, that I can't begin to explain. For instance, all my life I have avoided any recipe that required me to shuck a clam. I don't remember ever trying to shuck a clam so I'm not sure where or why I acquired the certainty that opening clams was something best left to professionals but I have been firmly of this mind set. I've always admired those guys behind the counter at a raw bar who make opening a clam look so easy however I've also believed they had a skill honed by long hours of clam shucking that the rest of the population was not likely to achieve.
But then at our last cookbook club meeting Joanne and Coralie were opening clams as casually and competently as a long-time raw bar employee. Hhhmmm, I thought to myself, why have I never learned to do this? Then Coralie made these completely delicious baked clams from a James Beard recipe which made me tell myself I was going to learn how to open clams.
So this past weekend I held my own personal clam shucking boot camp. I bought 50 little necks, studied some instructions on the web, and then began attempting to open clams myself. Initially, it did not go smoothly. I broke clam shells; I cut through the clams. Early on I broke the edge off a small utility knife I was trying to use and had to make an emergency purchase of a clam knife. Eventually, I was able to open clams.
And with the fruits of my labors I made James Beard's baked clams. I am a huge fan of clams casino and clams oregano, but I think these are even better. Because they don't have bread crumbs they're lighter and taste more of clams than baked clams usually do. And other than getting the clams open, they're fast and simple to make.
When you're opening the clams try and keep as much of the clam liquor as possible because this adds flavor. It's traditional to bake or broil clams nestled in a bed of rock salt (or use kosher salt) to keep them steady and prevent the clams from tipping over and losing the clam liquor. I didn't bother and found the clams stayed steady enough without it.
And finally, yes, I realize these are called baked clams and I'm broiling them. They can be either baked or broiled (the original recipe from the James Beard Cookbook can be seen here -- scroll down using the scroll bar on the left hand side) and I opted to broil them. But somehow, broiled clams doesn't sound as appealing as baked clams.
Adapted from the James Beard Cookbook, serves 4
24 littlenecks or cherrystones, on the half shell
Finely chopped parsley
Finely chopped shallots
Finely chopped garlic
3 or 4 slices of bacon, cut into pieces just large enough to fit over the clams
Rock or kosher salt (optional)
1. Preheat the broiler
2. Cook the bacon until it is just slightly rendered and golden around the edges.
3. Place the clams on a shallow baking dish, or in a pie pan. If you're using it, spread rock or kosher salt in the bottom of the pan and nestle clams in it.
4. Place a pinch of parsley, shallots, and garlic on each clam. Top with a piece of bacon.
5. Run under broiler until bacon is sizzling. Serve.