One of my favorite appetizers during the holidays are baked clams. They are beautiful and scrumptious. A lot of the ingredients are things that you probably already have sitting in your cabinet and fridge. I usually double this recipe, and it still isn’t enough. Soooooo goooooood!
For some more information about buying, cleaning, and cooking littleneck clams, scroll to the bottom of this recipe.
Ingredients: (makes 24 baked clams)
- 12 Littleneck Clams that are large enough to stuff
- 2 strips of bacon, diced
- 7 ounces ground pork sausage (I use ½ of a loaf of Jimmy Dean regular sausage)
- 1 cup yellow onion, diced (½ onion)
- ½ cup diced celery (~2 stalks)
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 1 can Cream of Mushroom soup (I use Campbell’s)
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan (you can use canned, but I like fresh)
- 3 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped (reserve 1 teaspoon for garnish)
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 12 butter crackers crushed by hand (I use Ritz)
- 1 egg, beaten
- ½ cup breadcrumbs
Shuck the clams, and try to reserve as much of the clam juice as possible in a large bowl (if you aren’t comfortable shucking clams, you can put them in a deep skillet with a ½ inch of water. Steam the clams over high heat, covered, until the clams open slightly, 6-10 minutes. The downside is that you will lose the clam juice. Discard any clams that do not open). Remove the meat from the shell and roughly chop. Clean the inside of the shell, scraping off any excess tissue, tear the shells in two, and rinse them out. Then dry the shells and place them on a large baking sheet.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
In a deep skillet, over medium heat, add the diced bacon, and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the ground sausage, celery, and onion. DO NOT add any salt because the ingredients we are using are already pretty salty. Cook the sausage like you would cook ground beef, allowing it to brown and breaking it up into small pieces. Cook until the sausage is browned and the vegetables are tender (~8 minutes). Remove from heat.
Add the sausage mixture to the clams and clam juice. Then add the Old Bay, cream of mushroom soup, Parmesan, 2 teaspoons parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, crackers, egg, and breadcrumbs. Combine the mixture well. Stuff the shells until the stuffing is gone. Put them into the oven and cook for 15 minutes. Then broil for 5 minutes. Remove the clams from the oven and allow them to cool until they are safe to touch (~5 minutes). To garnish, sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of parsley over top. You can also add some lemon wedges to the platter for squeezing over top immediately before eating. They will all be gone!
Some info on Littlenecks:
The basis of any clam dish is fresh clams. To make sure that they are fresh, smell them. Clams shouldn’t have a very fishy smell – clams should smell like the ocean, and the shell should be completely closed. If the shell is slightly open, tap on it. If the clam doesn’t close up, it’s dead and therefore should NOT be eaten.
The store will put the clams in a plastic bag. Don’t let them stay in there too long because they will die quickly. If you aren’t making these the same day, keep them in a dry bowl in your refrigerator with a damp cloth over top.
Once you are ready to eat them, put the clams in a colander and set the colander into a large bowl. Soak the clams in 2 cups water and 1 Tablespoon of salt. If that doesn’t cover the clams completely add another 2 cups of water and another tablespoon of salt. Soak for 20 minutes. The clams will purge the sand inside the flesh, and the colander will help them not to eat it again. Rinse the clams under cold water and scrub them with a clean sponge to get the grit off of the shell. Now they are ready to shuck or cook.
Once opened, the flesh should be a pale peachy color. Cooking clams causes them to die. Once they die, the muscle that holds the shell closed will weaken, and the shell will pop open. If a clam doesn’t open, tap on it and give it some more time. If, after a few minutes, it still doesn’t open, throw it away. It’s not worth getting sick over.