Story and Photography by Christine Fillat
Fall is once again upon us. Let's prepare something delightful in a seashell to conjure those bygone summer days! It's crunchy, briney, and spicy. Clams casino is the perfect dish to prepare and share as a delectable appetizer, whetting the appetite for whatever may follow.
Dan Powell has made preparing clams casino into a science, preferring Littleneck clams for their tenderness, and Quahogs for their shells! Dan steams quahog clams to use as the vehicle for his clams casino. These clam shells can be washed in the dishwasher and used again and again. He saves the Quahog clam meat for some future purpose (chowder perhaps). He likes to get his Littleneck clams from Whole Foods. He spices the dish with a local crab seasoning mix called Todd's Dirt, pancetta from The Tastings Gourmet in Clock Tower, Annapolis, and a lovely fennel salt.
Makes one dozen. Serves two, as an appetizer
• 18-24 Littleneck clams (scrub before steaming)
• ½ cup dry white wine
• 6 thin slices of pancetta (or bacon)
• Half a red pepper diced
• 1 clove garlic minced
• 1 stalk diced celery
• 2 scallions thinly sliced
• 2 Tbsp finely chopped flat leaf parsley
• Todd’s Dirt, a local crab spice (or Old Bay)
• freshly ground black pepper
• fennel salt
• Coarse rock salt for baking and serving
• 1 lemon
• Parmesan cheese, shredded - optional
• 1 dozen Quahog shell halves
Preheat oven to 400 degrees
1. Over low heat place wine and Littleneck clams in a sauce pot with a tight fitting lid. Steam until the shells open, usually within 10 minutes. Transfer clams from the pot to a bowl to stop them from cooking. Remove cooked clams from shells, roughly chop the clams. Save the cooking liquid.
2. In a sauté pan big enough to fit all the ingredients, cook pancetta about ¾ of the way through, about 6-10 minutes. Be careful to not completely cook! Remove the cooked pancetta from the sauté pan and set aside.
3. Using as much fat as you desire from the pancetta, bring it to a medium heat. Sauté the red pepper, scallion, and celery. Add the garlic and season with freshly ground pepper and Todd’s Dirt to taste. Finish off with a light sprinkling of fennel salt. Keep in mind the pancetta is going to be a bit salty, so easy goes it. Sauté until barely softened, 3-5 min.
4. Add about ½ cup clam cooking liquid to the sauteed vegetables and simmer over medium heat until the liquid is
reduced by half.
5. Add parsley and chopped clams; continue to heat on medium for 2 minutes.
6. Fill a 10 inch ovenproof pan with ¼ in. to ½ in. of coarse salt. Place the Quahog shell halves on top of the salt.
7. Fill each clam shell with a spoon-full of the vegetable-clam mixture. Top with pieces of pancetta, a squeeze of lemon, and optional shredded parmesan cheese.
8. Bake until the pancetta is finished cooking and is crispy, about 8-10 minutes.
Dan Powell owns Take One Digital Media, a digital media production company in Annapolis.
From Vol. 3, No. 5 2012
Annapolis Home Magazine