|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 31g||40%|
|Saturated Fat 16g||82%|
|Total Carbohydrate 23g||8%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||9%|
|Total Sugars 5g|
|Vitamin C 29mg||143%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|
Clams casino is for garlic-lovers. The super savory mixture of the clam butter is balanced by bright-tasting breadcrumbs which also provide the perfect textural contrast. There is enough bacon to amp up the savory factor but not so much that it overwhelms the flavor of the clams themselves.
The History of Clams Casino
The origin of clams casino, like many beloved classic dishes, is a murky one. It is often attributed to Julius Keller of the Narragansett Pier Casino in 1917, but “Soft clams a la Casino” was on the menu at the Central Park Casino as early as 1900. Clams casino was likely just one of a host of baked on-the-half-shell seafood dishes, including oysters Rockefeller, that were popular around the turn of the 20th Century. That the dish is still widely known and available, especially in New England, is a testament to its timeless deliciousness (and to bacon).
What Kind of Clams to Use for Clams Casino
Clams Casino uses littleneck clams, specifically the species Mercenaria mercenaria. These are not to be confused with the Pacific littleneck clam (Leukoma staminea), though both varieties work perfectly well for this dish. Because clams are bottom dwellers, they often take on quite a bit of sand and must be purged before cooking to avoid ruining the dish with a gritty texture.
My Clams Won't Open. Are They...Dead?
You may have heard the old saw that if a clam is still closed after cooking, then the clam is dead or spoiled—but the opposite is actually true. A closed clam is very much alive because it indicates that the clam is using its adductor muscle (the part you eat) to keep the shell shut. If some of the clams haven’t opened after cooking, transfer the open clams to a dish and steam the closed clams a few minutes more, until they open. On the other hand, clams that gape open before cooking and will not shut when nudged or rinsed under fresh water are probably dead and should be discarded.
"These clams have a deliciously balanced flavor, with the bacon coming through but not overwhelming the flavor of the clams. The breadcrumb topping provides the perfect bit of crunch." —Spruce Eats Test Kitchen
2 tablespoons plus 1/8 teaspoon fine salt, divided
28 medium littleneck clams
1/2 cup panko
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup finely chopped shallots (about 4 medium shallots)
1/3 cup dry white wine
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, divided
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
1/2 cup (4 ounces) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh chives
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
Lemon wedges, for serving
Gather the ingredients.
To purge clams of sand and grit, fill a large bowl or pot with 1 gallon of cold water and stir in 2 tablespoons of the sea salt until salt dissolves. Add clams to salted water and let soak in the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes or up to 1 hour.
Drain clams into a colander and rinse under cold running water, scrubbing to clean shells. Tap any open-shelled clams, if shells do not close then the clam is dead and should be discarded.
Place clams in a medium clean bowl, cover with a damp paper towel, and set bowl in a second large bowl filled with ice. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Stir together panko and remaining 1/8 teaspoon sea salt in a small bowl; set aside.
Place chopped bacon in a large Dutch oven and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until bacon has rendered fat and is starting to crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
Carefully remove about 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat from pot and add to panko mixture in bowl; stir to combine and set aside.
Add shallots to pot with bacon and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring often, until shallots soften, about 4 minutes.
Add wine and clams to pot and cover. Cook over medium, undisturbed, until clam shells have opened, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove from heat.
Using tongs, remove opened clams from pot and place on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet; set aside. If any clams are still closed, cover pot and place over medium heat. Cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes; add opened clams to baking sheet with other clams. Discard any clams that did not open.
Increase heat to medium-high. Continue to cook shallot and bacon mixture, stirring occasionally, until liquid has almost completely evaporated, 5 to 8 minutes.
Using a microplane, grate garlic directly into pot with shallot mixture. Stir in lemon juice and crushed red pepper, if using.
Transfer shallot mixture to a small bowl and let stand at room temperature until cool, about 20 minutes. Stir in softened butter until well combined.
Preheat oven to 450 F. Twist and bend tops of clam shells to separate from bottom shells; discard top shells. Using a small spoon, loosen and separate cooked clams from bottom shells, leaving clams in shells. Return clams to baking sheet and spoon about 1 1/2 teaspoons of the softened bacon-shallot butter over each clam. (At this point, clams can be covered and refrigerated overnight.)
Stir together Parmigiano-Reggiano, parsley, chives, lemon zest, and olive oil into panko mixture in bowl. Top each butter-topped clam with about 1 teaspoon of the panko mixture, lightly pressing to adhere.
Bake in preheated oven until panko is light golden brown and crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a platter. Serve immediately with lemon wedges.
Cleaning your clams is a step you shouldn’t skip. Sand and grit can ruin a totally beautiful dish. After they soak in the salted water, don’t just pour them straight into a colander to drain - the grit at the bottom of the bowl will pour right back over them. Remove and scrub, then rinse, and transfer to a clean bowl or sheet tray.
If you enjoy the combination of anise and shellfish, thinly slice some fennel and sauté it with the shallot. Swap the white wine for Pernod.
This recipe can be fully made ahead up until right before baking! Top the cooked clams with the compound butter, cover, and refrigerate, saving your breadcrumbs for topping right before baking. This is a really great option for a quick cook/clean up to serve at a party.
Central Park Casino Menu, 1900-1901. New York Public Library http://menus.nypl.org/menu_pages/37639/explore. Accessed November 10, 2022.