California Central Coast Recipes
Stuffed Clams Central Coast Style
Stuffed Clams Central Coast Style is our version of the East Coast Clams Casino Style. This is a traditional Christmas Eve or New Year's Eve Appetizer in our house. Served on the half shell, when these little stuffed clams are hot from the oven your guest just can't say no! They are very showy and very wine friendly to serve.
Since we are West Coasters, we use Pacific Manila Clams. Manila Clams are actually not a native clam, they were introduced the Pacific Northwest in the 1930's. Packed with flavor, Manila clams are the smallest and the the sweetest hard-shell clams we find in our local seafood markets. More sweet and are less briny than their East Coast cousins, to savor their flavor, we reduce the amount of bacon and add no cheese like you sometimes find in the East Coast recipes.
This is an easy recipe to prepare. Since the clams are steamed open first, there is no messy shucking required. However, the success of the recipe depends upon the bread. Use fresh coarse bread crumbs preferably from a slightly stale robust French or Italian bread. Also it helps to slightly dry --but not toast, the bread crumbs in an oven at 350F for a few minutes if the crumbs are too soft.
Preparation time: 20 minutesCooking time: 10 minutes
2 pounds Manila Clams
1 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 ounce Bacon
1/2 cup White Onion finely chopped
1 teaspoons Fresh Thyme finely chopped
1 Tablespoons Garlic , finely chopped
1 Tablespoons Roasted Sweet Red Pepper , chopped
1 cup Fresh Bread Crumbs , preferably Italian or French Bread, slightly oven dried
2 Tablespoons Italian Parsley Chopped
Salt and Pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil , for drizzling.
1 Clean and scrub the clams, and discard any open ones.
2 In a large stockpot saute the minced bacon in the olive oil over medium heat until the bacon is crisp. Add the chopped onion and continue to saute until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the garlic and thyme and cook until just fragrant.
3 Turn up the heat to medium-high and add the clams. Cover the pan and steam the clams until they open, about 3-5 minutes. Occasionally shake the pan to help them cook.
4 Check the clams. Those that didn't open, take a small paring knife and try to help them open. If they open and smell good, then you can use them. The stubborn and/or the bad smelling ones, discard.
5 Turn down heat to medium-low and remove the lid. Pour the wine over the clams and deglaze. Remove the clams to a side dish, cover to stay warm.
6 Turn up the heat to high and reduce the wine and clam juices by 1/3. When reduced, stir in the parsley, chopped red pepper and bread crumbs and remove form the heat. The bread crumb stuffing should be just moist and firm enough to hold together. Add a little extra white wine if too dry, or a little extra bread crumbs if too wet. Correct seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.
7 To prepare the clams, remove one half of the shell, leaving the clam on the remaining half --free the clam meat to make it easier to eat.
8 Spoon an equal amount of the bread mixture on top of each clam, lightly pressing just enough to stay in place. Drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil on top.
9 Place the clams under a broiler for 5 to 6 minutes --just long enough to lightly brown the stuffing.
10 Serve with wedges of lemon.
Less briny than their Eastern counter parts, the flavor of these clams go equally well with a dry white or red wine.
If you prefer white, choose a dry white with good acidly like a young Viognier or California Chardonnay
If you prefer red, choose a young robust red like a Sangiovese or Petite Sarah.