Monday, December 30, 2013

Clams Oreganata

Having friends over for New Year's Eve? Here's a dish that's a crowd pleaser and quick and easy to put together. There's just one problem though - They disappear in a flash.

Well, make that two problems - opening the raw clams can be a pain if you don't know what you're doing (guilty as charged).

Your fishmonger may be willing to open them for you, but don't count on it at the busy holiday season. And trying to pry them open with a clam shucker is my idea of how to end up in the emergency room. I've heard that freezing the clams for about 15 minutes will also make them easier to pry open, but I've never tried that technique. I like this method of preparing the clams because no matter how much you rinse raw clams, you're going to end up with a bit of sand or grit on the inside. Not with this method though. All the sand gets released when the clam opens, and settles on the bottom of the pot. I strain out the liquid, pouring it through a coffee filter (actually, two coffee filters because the grit can be very fine.)  

So what I do is put a shallow amount of water in a large pan and bring it to a rolling boil. Add the clams and stand over the pot and watch the clams pop open one after the other. As soon as they do, remove each clam, one by one, and and place them in a bowl. Put the bowl in the refrigerator for 10 minutes or so, or until they're cool enough to handle. Rip off one half of the shell and discard. 

Loosen the clam on the other half, using a grapefruit spoon or paring knife, and arrange it on an oven-proof shallow tray, like this stainless steel tray. The clams will still be nearly raw, as you can see in the photo below. 

Put a heaping mound of filling over each clam, carefully pour some of the clam liquid and white wine on the bottom, and bake until crispy and golden.

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and
good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who
thinks you're wonderful, and don't forget to make
some art -- write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And
I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself." - Neil Gaiman

Clams Oreganata

4 dozen littleneck clams on the half shell

2 cups breadcrumbs (I used Panko but ordinary bread crumbs are fine)

2 large cloves garlic

4 T. minced parsley

a dash of red pepper flakes, depending on your heat tolerance

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 t. dried oregano

6 cherry or grape tomatoes, cut into small pieces

salt, pepper to taste

1/4 cup reserved clam liquid plus more for pouring in the bottom of the tray

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup dry white wine

Put a shallow amount of water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Place the clams in the pot and stand over it, removing each clam just as it starts to open. Put them in a large bowl and place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill. Remove half of the shell, and using a grapefruit spoon or paring knife, loosen the clam from the other half of the shell.

Arrange the clams on an oven-proof tray. Mix the remaining ingredients together. If the mixture seems a bit dry, add more of the reserved clam liquid and/or olive oil. Heap a small amount on each clam half and carefully pour the white wine and a little of the clam liquid on the bottom of the tray. Drizzle the clams with a bit more olive oil and bake at 475 degrees for about 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown on top.

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