Like Caesar Salad, Clams Casino is usually believed to be a classic Italian dish simply because of its Italianate name. In fact, the recipe originated at the Casino at Narragansett Pier in New York around 1917. In his autobiography, Inns and Outs (1939), restauranteur Julius Keller described how the society figure Mrs. Paran Stevens asked Keller, then maître d’ at the Casino, to create a new dish for a luncheon she was holding for friends. Keller came up with one for clams baked with bacon. When Stevens inquired as to the dish’s name, Keller replied, “It has no name, Mrs. Stevens but we shall call it Clams Casino in honor of this restaurant.”
While many recipes for Clams Casino insist on opening up the live clams, we’ve found that steaming them briefly opens them up and tenderizes the flesh a bit before they’re baked.
Yield: Serves 4
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced shallots
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh or bottled roasted red pepper
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
4 teaspoons finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
½ cup white wine, such as Chardonnay
24 littleneck or cherrystone clams well rinsed
3 strips bacon, each cut into 8 pieces
1. Preheat the oven to 450°F.
2. In a small saucepan, combine the butter, shallots, red pepper, Worcestershire sauce, green pepper, parsley, lemon juice, and black pepper to taste. Place over low heat until the butter melts, then remove from the heat. Stir to blend, and set aside.
3. In a large sauté pan, heat the wine over medium-high heat. Add the clams, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to medium. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and let steam until the clams open, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Carefully remove the top shell from each clam, being careful not to spill the liquid surrounding the clam. Discard any clams that have not opened.
4. Spoon the butter sauce over each clam, and top with a piece of bacon. Arrange the clams in a baking pan, and bake for 5 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to broil. Heat the clams under the broiler for 2 to 3 minutes, until the bacon crisps a bit, and serve.