Sunday, December 11, 2011

Baked Clams

Sunday was our son and daughter-in-law's Christmas party. He requested deviled eggs and Wassail Bowl, the mulled cider drink I made for the last Christmas party. I agreed as long as I could add baked clams to the list. He didn't care what else he got as long as he got deviled eggs and Wassail Bowl, so he agreed.

The weekend was somewhat frenetic. Saturday wasn't too bad. I went riding and to the grocery store. Then our daughter dropped by and we ended up going out to dinner after buying the church Christmas tree at Whole Foods and dropping it off at the church. We got home about 9:30, and I started hard boiling eggs and making hard candy, of which later.
Sunday, I had volunteered to work at the church, receiving presents dropped off for adopted families. Rafts of gaily wrapped boxes came in, to be taped together and prominently labeled with the child's name. The volume was incredible. No gift cards for these people. One family dropped off a bicycle.
After that, I came home to hors d'oeurves land. First came the deviled eggs. Deviled eggs have a long association for me. Every November, my parents would drive to New Haven to see either the Harvard-Yale game, which, in cringe inducing Harvard lingo was known as "The (pronounced Thee) Game." As if there was no other. Or the Princeton-Yale game, because the Harvard-Yale game was played in Cambridge in alternate years, and my mother refused to drive to Boston.
Like most of the stuff my parents did, this was a ritual, from the argument over which house they always parked at to what was eaten at the picnic. The picnic, which, it goes without saying, included cocktails, Manhattans, I think, consisted of soup, made from one can of Campbell's cream of potato soup and one can of Campbell's cream of onion soup and a dash of curry powder, deviled eggs and fried chicken.
Football games, to me, were something you put on a dress and your school coat for, and where you watched adults laugh at the jokes at the halftime show. In 1962, when my parents went to both games because my sister went to boarding school in the Boston area, John F. Kennedy actually turned up at The Game, at the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. My mother noted that when it came time to sing the national anthem, "Everybody sang!"
After the eggs came the baked clams. The recipe calls for 24 cherry stone or little neck clams, which are supposed to yield two-thirds of a cup of clams. A visit to The Fishery yielded 24 tiny clams, which produced around a quarter to a third of a cup. So, with small clams, the recipe has more stuffing and not a lot of clams. I minced and chopped and ground away. Finally, about 4:30, all was ready, and we carried our donations around the block to the party. They will well received by the multitudes.

Baked Clams

24 cherry stone or little neck clams
1/4 cup water
3 slices bacon cut into small cubes
1/2 pound mushrooms, caps and all, finely minced
1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
1/8 pound Gruyere cheese, Swiss cheese or Fontina cheese

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

1 small clove garlic, finely minced

3/4 cup fine soft bread crumbs

1/3 cup finely minced heart of celery

3 tablespoons dry white wine

1 egg yolk

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

2. Wash the clams well and place in a kettle. Add the water, cover and steam until clams open. Remove the clams and let them cool. Take the clams from the shells and chop on a flat surface. There should be about two-thirds cup chopped clams. Set aside. Reserve twenty-four shells for filling.

3. Cook the bacon in a large saucepan until bits are crisp. Do not burn. Remove the bacon bits and reserve. Pour off all but two tablespoons of fat from the saucepan. Add the mushrooms to the fast in the saucepan. Add the shallot and cook, stirring until mushrooms are wilted. Let cool.

4. Chop the Gruyere, Swiss or Fontina cheese into tiny cubes. Add with the parsley, garlic, bread crumbs, celery, wine and egg yolks to the mushroom mixture. Add salt, pepper and the reserved clams.

5. Fill reserved clam shells with the mixture and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and reserved bacon bits. Bake ten minutes or longer, and until filling is bubbly and golden brown. Serve hot. Makes six servings.

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