Bacony, Buttery & Briny Almejas
This is one of my favorite clam recipes, the more Spanish version of clams casino. I think of it as the most likely progenitor of that steak house and country club classic. I never heard of this as a Spanish dish until I started reading Penelope Casas’s books when I got out of college. Anyone looking for some lusty, good old-school Spanish food should read her books. When poaching the clams I use a half bottle of a light, crisp white wine with some diced celery, carrot and onion. I bring it to a boil before loading in the cleaned and scrubbed clams. Pluck them out as soon as they open or you risk toughening the little beauties. Strain the broth and use it for soups and stews; it’s fantastically oceanic and sweet-salty.
Spanish-Style Baked Stuffed Clams
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1 celery rib, chopped
- 1/2 small onion, chopped
- 1 small carrot, chopped
- 24 cherrystone clams, scrubbed
- Two 1-inch-thick slices of white bread, crusts removed and bread cubed
- 1/2 cup minced bacon
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/3 cup minced onion
- 1/3 cup minced red bell pepper
- 1/3 cup minced celery
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, chopped
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
- 2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
Prepare the Clams
In a large saucepan, combine the wine, celery, onion and carrot and bring to a boil. Add the clams, cover and steam over high heat until the clams open, 5 to 7 minutes; transfer the clams to a baking sheet to cool. Strain the liquid and reserve for another use.
Working over a bowl to catch the juices, remove and discard the top shells of the clams. Arrange the clams on a baking sheet. Strain the clam juice through a cheesecloth-lined sieve and reserve 3 tablespoons.
Make the Stuffing
Preheat the oven to 350°. Pulse the bread in a food processor until coarse bread crumbs form. Spread the bread crumbs on a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer the bread crumbs to a medium bowl.
Increase the oven temperature to 500°. In a large nonstick skillet, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp, 5 to 6 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Pour off the bacon fat from the skillet and add the olive oil, onion, red pepper, celery, garlic and thyme; cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the paprika and bacon and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in the reserved 3 tablespoons of clam juice and cook until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add the vegetable mixture to the bread crumbs and mix well; stir in the lemon juice, butter and parsley.
Top each clam with a heaping tablespoon of the stuffing, gently pressing to help it adhere. Bake the clams until they are golden and crisp on top, about 10 minutes.