Clams Casino is one of the all time greatest clam recipes! Absolutely delicious!
My first job in the restaurant business was as a dishwasher and prep cook at one of the busiest seafood restaurants in Florida. In the old days, a cook started at the very bottom end of a restaurant. You had to learn how to scrub pots, wash dishes and clean, before you learned how to cook! Dishwashing at a bushy little restaurant is a great way to develop good hand speed and agility.
The menu at the seafood restaurant was simple old fashioned raw clams and oysters, broiled seafood and fried seafood. We were the best at selecting fresh seafood to sell. The owner would drive about 400 miles in a van to purchase oysters and clams fresh off the boat in Apalachicola. The clams and oysters were the best! We drove to Fort Meyers to select gulf shrimp on the boats that just cam in to port. We selected whole grouper and red snapper at the fishing boat ports too. Seafood was never delivered to the restaurant, therefore we never had quality issues.
The seafood restaurant had a 75 seat capacity and we served over 900 customers a night. That steaming hot Florida seafood shack of a restaurant was a gold mine! The waiting line to get in was a block long. Sometimes customers waited an hour for a table, but the wait was well worth it.
The owner cooked a fancy clam dish that was not on the menu for himself one night. I asked what the dish was. He said "Try one!" One clam casino was all that it took to get me hooked! The flavor was incredibly good. A few years later, I learned the clams casino recipe while working at an Italian restaurant in Philadelphia.
The only variable in a clams casino recipe is the choice of bacon. Cheap bacon tastes like cheap bacon. A light hickory and white oak smoked bacon is best for this recipe. Applewood smoked bacon is a poor choice. Any kind of clam up to the size of a cherrystone or large neck can be used to make clams casino. Many chefs prefer little neck clams for this recipe.
This recipe makes enough topping for a dozen clams! A half dozen clams casino is considered to be an appetizer size portion. A good clam knife is essential. Old fashioned white handle Dexter Russell clam knives are the best! The handle floats in water.
Heat a saute pan over medium low heat.
Add 3 strips of lightly smoked bacon that is finely chopped.
Gently saute the bacon and render the bacon grease, till the bacon starts to get some light brown color.
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
Add 1 minced shallot.
Add 4 tablespoons of finely chopped onion.
Add 4 minced garlic cloves.
Add 1/3 cup of finely chopped mixed red bell pepper and green bell pepper.
Add sea salt and black pepper.
Add 2 pinches of oregano.
When the peppers and shallots become cooked al dente, remove the pan from the heat.
Shuck 6 to 12 fresh clams ,so they are still attached on the half shell. (Cut the attaching muscle after rinsing, or the clam may end up going for a swim!)
Rinse any broken shell off of the clams under cold running water.
Cut the muscle that attaches the clams to the half shell.
Place the clams on the half shell on a baking pan. (A bed of rock salt on the baking pan allows the clams to set evenly. Use a rock salt bed, if rock salt is available.)
Place some of the casino topping on each clam.
Sprinkle a tiny amount of fine grated parmesan cheese on top of the casino topping.
Squeeze a little bit of fresh lemon juice on each clam.
Sprinkle a tiny amount of fine plain bread crumbs on each clam.
Drizzle a little bit of virgin olive oil on each clam.
Place the baking pan and clams in a 350 degree oven.
Bake the clams casino for 8 to 12 minutes, till the topping become golden brown and till the clams become fully cooked, yet moist.
Note: The baking time depends on the size of the clams. The clams casino is done baking when the shells are hot and the topping becomes a light golden brown color. The clams don't have to be over cooked and dry to be fully cooked. The clams should be tender, warm and moist. That is al dente!
Place a bed of parsley sprigs or endive lettuce on a plate.
Set the clams casino on the bed of lettuce.
Sprinkle a little bit of chopped Italian parsley over the clams.
Garnish the center of the plate with a lemon slice that has a fluted rind and has fine chopped parsley pressed onto the fruit surface.
The flavor of clams casino is classic! The topping combines with the clams own juices to create a nice flavor. If you like clams, clams casino will become a favorite!
In Philadelphia, bluefish casino is popular too. Delicious! ... Shawna