Clams are traditionally served at The Feast of the Seven Fishes, and in America they are frequently served as Clams Casino.
According to legend, the recipe for Clams Casino was originally developed in 1917 in the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, by a maître d’hôtel for a woman of means wanting something special for her guests. She named the dish after the hotel, and word and popularity of the dish has since spread across the United States.
In the first decades of the 20th century, if a restaurant wanted to be noted, it came up with a dish that involved the baking of shellfish. Clams Casino and Oysters Rockefeller are the most famous of the dishes created in that era.
Yield: 6 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces sliced pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
1 cup finely diced red bell pepper
1/3 cup chopped shallots
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/3 cup dry white wine
4 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
18 medium (2 1/2-inch) littleneck clams, shucked, bottom shells reserved
Heat the oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and saute until crisp and golden, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a plate. Add the bell pepper, shallots, garlic, and oregano to the same skillet and saute until the shallots are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and simmer until it is almost evaporated, about 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and cool completely. Stir the honey, the reserved pancetta and 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese into the vegetable mixture. Season the mixture, to taste, with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 500 degrees F.
Line a heavy large baking sheet with foil. Arrange the clams in the reserved shells on the baking sheet. Spoon the vegetable mixture atop the clams, dividing equally and mounding slightly. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan. Bake until the clams are just cooked through and the topping is golden, about 10 minutes.
Arrange the clams on the platter and serve.
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