VONGOLE CASSINI (The Recipe)
Updated: Jul 1, 2022
This dish was born in VONGOLE CASSINI (The Story), a tale about an unforgettable female sous chef-in-residence at the CAYUGA LOUNGE.
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“Clams Casino” was invented in Rhode Island a century ago. Numerous variations as well as other versions of clams baked on the half-shell with various seasonings (i.e, Vongole Gratinate) abound. This version substitutes additional flavor and zing for the bread so commonly used in such recipes, setting it apart as a gluten-free alternative without sacrificing flavor or structure.
24 Small Clams– Littleneck or Cherrystone– 6 Per Person (or more)
¼ lb. Pancetta, purchased Thickly Sliced
¼ lb. Prosciutto, purchased Thickly Sliced
½ cup (or 4 pieces) Peppadew Spicy Red Pepper, Finely Minced
1 Green Pepper, Finely Chopped
2 Medium Stalks of Celery, Finely Diced
½ Sweet Onion, Chopped
4 cloves of Garlic, Finely Minced
Finely Chopped Herbs (Fresh Oregano and Fresh Thyme) To Taste
Zest of 1 Lemon
White Wine (Sauvignon Blanc is perfect)
Grated Grano Padano Cheese
Steam the clams with white wine and water flavored with scraps of garlic, onion, and celery until they just start to open, then remove from heat ASAP. Reserve the clam meats in a bowl and save the shells. Save the steaming broth and reduce it until it is nearly a syrup.
Slowly sauté the pancetta and prosciutto in a splash of grapeseed oil until soft. When nicely cooked, use only 2 cups of the mixture and save the rest for another purpose. Put the 2 cups of the prosciutto/pancetta mixture in deep sauté pan and add, in order, the onions, the red and green peppers, garlic, and then celery. Add a splash of the reduced broth and season to taste with the herbs and lemon zest. Add just enough grated cheese to tighten it up, and then remove from heat.
Crinkle aluminum foil on a baking sheet so that clam shells can be held in stable position while they broil. Place 24 ½ shells on the foil and add a dab of veggie/herb mixture. Place individual clams atop veggie/meat mix, than add more mix. Sprinkle with cheese, then broil on low setting just until the topping begins to brown. Remove from oven, and serve either hot, warm, or even room temperature.
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This recipe will make more veggie/meat filling than you will need for 24 clams, but it is a convenient quantity to shop for and work with. You can make more clams, or you can use it as a topping for fish, chicken, or veal, or in a pasta dish.