Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Oysters Rockefeller and Clams Casino

"Rockefeller" and "Casino" in the names of these two classics, I was going to go with a cutesy title for this post like Millionaires on the Half Shell, but that was a bit too twee, even for me. And these time honored classics really don't need any further gussying up. Oysters Rockefeller or Clams Casino served on their own are worthwhile endeavors.  But unite them on the same plate, piping hot and just the littlest bit crispy on top and you're well into Spectacularly Delicious territory.

Even though you can get fresh oysters year round (since there's been a relaxation of that "only in R months" rule) cold water oysters still taste best.  So O.R. is a seasonal recipe for me. On the other hand, our friend the sturdy clam is always at the ready to lend its briney goodness to chowders, pastas, the seduction of the deep fryer and of course C.C., so you can use this recipe anytime you'd like. 

There are many recipes for Oysters Rockefeller out there -- disregard any that call for cheese. And a complete reliance on spinach is disappointingly bland. Fennel bulb is the key to success here, wise advice first dispensed to me by the good ladies of the The Silver Palate cook books. The clam topping is relatively straight forward. You want the bread crumbs loose, buttery and toasty, not packed tightly as you would for a stuffed clam.  This is not the time to cheat and steam the clams open first -- it's essential to use freshly shucked clams so they are just barely cooked after their ride under the broiler.  Another important thing to note is you need a clam knife for the clams and an oyster knife for the oysters.  Beware anything billed as a combo oyster/clam opening knife -- these tools work equally poorly on both, if at all.

1 dozen freshly shucked cherry stone clams on the half shell
2 T. chopped parsley
2 garlic cloves minced
2 T. butter
2 T. best olive oil
pinch of salt, grind of pepper
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
juice of 1 lemon
1 c. seasoned bread crumbs
3 strips thick bacon

Saute garlic and red pepper in the butter and oil for two minutes. Stir in the bread crumbs, salt and pepper and saute one minute more.  Take off the heat and stir in the parsley and lemon juice.  Cut each bacon strip into four equal pieces.

(this topping recipe makes enough for 3 dozen oysters, so make more than the 1 dozen indicated or refrigerate extra for another night)

1 dozen freshly shucked oysters on the half shell
1 fennel bulb, roughly chopped
6 oz. fresh spinach, washed
4 scallions, chopped
1 T. whole grain French mustard
1 t. Tabasco
juice of 1 lemon
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
1/2 t. dry yellow mustard
2 T. butter
1/2 c. seasoned bread crumbs

Boil the chopped fennel for eight minutes, adding the spinach for the last 30 seconds. Drain, run under cold water to stop the cooking and set the color.  In a food processor chop the fennel, spinach, scallions, butter, salt, pepper, wet and dry mustards, Tobasco, until it's a wet crumble. Add the bread crumbs and lemon juice, mix well.  You'll end up with a thick green paste.

On a pan large enough to hold all the shellfish lay out the clams and the oysters.  Top the clams with their breadcrumb mixture and lay a piece of bacon over each.  Spoon a good tablespoon of the fennel paste on top of each oyster -- you want the oyster peeking through under the topping.

Put the pan under a hot pre-heated broiler and broil until the oyster topping is starting to brown and the bacon is crisped. It takes about 10 minutes but you will want to keep an eye on things.

Serve hot out of the broiler with lemon wedges and extra Tabasco if desired. (I desire.)

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