Paleo Comfort Foods – Clams Casino Recipe

Happy summer Paleo Comfort Foods’ friends! We hope you all are taking in summer’s fresh bounty, filling your plates with just-picked tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, peppers, peaches, blackberries and more! And, though we’ve been somewhat absent from our blog, we’ve not been absent from the kitchen! Here’s a new recipe for you…

For as long as I can remember, clams casino (or at least our families’ rendition of this dish – many of the classic clams casino recipes call for breadcrumbs, and our family has NEVER added breadcrumbs) has been a “special occasion” treat for my (Jules’) family.  Evidently, my mom and dad discovered this iteration of clams casino years ago (before I was born) at a restaurant in New York, or something like that. While most clams casino recipes call for breadcrumbs, this one was extremely simple, with the taste of the veggies, bacon and clam juices combining for a wonderful, unadulterated flavor.

As kids, my sister and I would beg for clams casino (while my brother would merely eat the bacon off the tops of the clams – he had his priorities in order). Mom would labor in the kitchen, shucking a couple dozen littleneck clams, and then we’d gather around the coffee table to devour these tasty morsels. We would even go so far as to take the now-empty clam shells, and use them as spoons to scoop up the delicious broth left in the pan – they are that good.

The “memories of home” associated with clams casino were so strong that I wanted to incorporate them as part of the food for our wedding in 2010. The caterers did a phenomenal job making the recipe to our specifications (just like the did with our mashed cauliflower recipe). The saddest part? I only got to eat one clam that night. It’s okay though – I more than made up for it with these home-cooked clams casino!

Clams are naturally high in iron and omega-3 fatty acids, so while they are a bit labor intensive to prepare, they are a great once-in-a-while treat! The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch ranks farmed clams (like the littleneck clams we suggest for this recipe) as a best choice, and wild-caught as a good alternative. To read more about aquaculture and clams, have a look here.

Clams Casino – The Sullivan Family Edition

Yield: 3 dozen clams on the half shell

3 dozen littleneck clams or other small clams
2 Tablespoons clarified grassfed butter or other fat of your choosing
1 green bell pepper, finely diced
1 4oz jar of sliced or diced pimento (if you cannot find pimentos – which are similar to red peppers but different in taste, you can substitute with jarred roasted red peppers), finely diced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 ounces white wine
6-8 pieces of your favorite bacon, cut into pieces at least as wide as the clam width (total needed of 36 pieces at least as wide as the clams – remember the bacon will shrink!)

Paleo clams casino

Clams casino from our wedding day. Photo courtesy Katherine Birkbeck

Instructions:
1.)  Clean and shuck all the clams, loosening the clam meat from the shell. For a great video on how to do this, go here. Especially if you don’t have a clam knife, make sure you use a strong, really dull knife, and use the towel in your opposite hand to hold the clam! Arrange on a half sheet-pan (like these) and place in refrigerator until ready to top with veggies and cook.
2.)  In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add in the peppers, onions and pimentos, and sauté until onions are translucent. Stir in wine and simmer until most of the alcohol has cooked off (5-10 minutes).
3.)  When ready to cook, adjust top rack in oven about 6 inches away from broiler flame. Preheat broiler on high. Top each clam with some of the veggie mixture, and one of your already cut bacon pieces (place wider pieces of bacon on the larger clams – remember the bacon will shrink!).
4.)  Broil in oven 5-10 minutes or until bacon is crispy (not burnt). Serve immediately and enjoy!

What recipes make you wax nostalgic about your childhood? Any family favorites that are paleo-friendly that you serve for special occasions?

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