As spring rolls in, so do the backyard get-togethers and garden parties. I always love the idea of an outdoor gathering in early spring. Imagine an evening with friends on an expansive deck adorned with white lanterns (and porch heaters combating the crisp March air.) Ladies wearing sandles and light wraps sip sparkling cocktails and nibble on warm hor d’oeuvres teetering on the end of winter and the brink of spring.
That’s the sort of food I crave at the moment. Dishes still rich in comfort and warmth, yet brazenly flaunting spring flavors and seasonal produce. Dishes like Dutch Babies with Mulberry Rhubarb Compote and Chinese Hot Pots offer the coziness of a blanket and the zest to springboard you into a new season.
Clams Casino is just such a dish. Decedent bacon and Parmesan cheese are balanced by vibrant lemon, fresh rosemary and red peppers. The fact that these little beauties are served “on the half shell” provides a touch of elegance to an otherwise down-home dish!
These fantastic serving pieces are from Villeroy & Boch’s Flow line!
I HATE to shuck shellfish and avoid it at all costs. I’ve discovered steaming the clams for just a minute eliminates the need for shucking. Steam them until they are slightly opened. Then twist off the tops, saving the bottom half with and barely cooked clam.
Most shellfish served on the half shell are presented cold, on a bed of ice. These are piping hot when you offer them to your guests. A creative way to serve them, so they don’t teeter around, is to lay them on a bed of dried grains or beans. These dried split-peas made a lovely and functional bed!
Fill a large pot with 2 inches of water and a place a steaming basket over the top. Place the pot over high heat. Once boiling, add the clams to the basket and cover for 1-3 minutes, until just barely opened.
Open the clams and twist off the top shell. Lay the bottom with the clam on a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest.
Heat a large skillet over medium. Add the chopped bacon and cook until brown. Add the red pepper, shallot, garlic and rosemary. Sauté another 3-5 minutes until the onions are soft, then add the panko breadcrumbs. Once the breadcrumbs are toasted, squeeze the lemon juice over the top and taste for salt and pepper.
Scoop the bacon mixture on top of each clam, distributing evenly.
Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese over the tops. Bake for approximately 5-6 minutes—until the tops are crisp.
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