This week I’m taking inspiration from my pal James Beard, using Mr. Beard’s 1981 update of his own cookbook ‘The James Beard Cookbook’. The New James Beard was written after he was ordered by his physicians to “lighten up”—in calories, fat, cholesterol and alcohol. Despite all the lightening up, I still find it a good all-purpose cookbook and refer to it often.
James Beard has been referred to as the “dean of American cookery” and though he is not as well known as some mid-century cooks, he is the man who single handedly spearheaded the love and reverence for regional cooking using the best of seasonal and local products. I like to keep him in my kitchen for inspiration, along with my Nana. He is after all, one of my many “boyfriends”.
I’ve been promising Clams Casino since Las Vegas, and I’ve used inspiration from two different recipes in The New James Beard cookbook to come up with something today. I have Manila clams from the Sac farmers market, fresh bread crumbs, bell pepper, bacon, green onion, parsley and butter.
Look at these clams! I just love them. They’re only $5 a pound. Soak them for about a half hour in some cold water with some kosher salt so get them to spit out any sand they’re hanging onto.
As with any good recipe, begin with some of Mr. Bledsoe’s fabulous bacon. You only need a slice or two.
Chop up your vegetation. Three green onions, a handful of parsley, about 1/3 a bell pepper, and the cooled bacon. Believe it or not, this bell pepper came out of my garden. IN NOVEMBER. That’s pretty rad. I like Sacramento!
Saute the bell pepper and green onion lightly in about 1/2 Tbsp butter–only for about 1 minute. Pour into a bowl and set aside to cool.
In the same pan, pour in the drained clams. Add about 1/2 cup of water and put a lid on it. Crank the heat to high. Shake the pan occasionally over the heat.
They should be open in about 1-2 minutes.
Remove the clams from the shells, reserving the shells.
Combine the sauteed onion and pepper with the bacon and parsley.
Add the breadcrumbs.
Add 1 Tbsp softened unsalted butter and mix through.
When the butter is mixed through the vegetables and breadcrumbs, it will stick together lightly, almost like turkey stuffing.
Separate the clamshells, keeping in mind to reserve the largest of the shells. Place 1 to 1-1/2 clams on each half shell.
Using your fingers, take about 1/2 to 1 Tbsp of the stuffing (depending on the size of the clamshell), and lightly pack it on top of the clam.
Repeat until the clams are all stuffed.
Preheat the oven to 425*. Place all the clams on a sheet pan.
Bake for 6-8 minutes, until heated through and the tops are crispy.
Serve with lemon wedges. I happened to not have any lemon wedges, so I served them with Garlic Tabasco, which was also extremely satisfactory. These were a super Sunday afternoon snack, but they’d be even better and most impressive at your upcoming holiday celebration.
1-2 slices good quality bacon, cooked and finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh bread crumbs
Lemon wedges and/or Tabasco or other hot sauce
salt and pepper to taste
Soak clams in a bowl of cold water with 1/8 cup kosher salt for about 1/2 hour, so the clams spit out all their sand.
Preheat oven to 425*.
Lightly saute the onion and bell pepper in 1/2 Tbsp of the butter for about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside to cool.
In the same pan, add the drained clams and 1/2 cup of water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover and let cook for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan over the heat. Cook just until the clamshells open, then remove from heat. Remove the clams from the shells, reserving the shells. Twist the larger of the shells, breaking them in half.
When the vegetables are cool, add the bacon and the parsley. Toss in the breadcrumbs. Add the reserved one tablespoon of softened butter, mixing through so that it resembles turkey stuffing. It will stick together lightly when pressed in your hand.
In the reserved half-shell, place 1 to 1-1/2 clams on each. Press 1/2 to 1 Tbsp of the breadcrumb mixture on top.
Place the clams on a baking sheet and bake at 425* for 6-8 minutes, just until heated through and the tops are crispy.