When people ask me what I’d want my death row meal to be, I ask them, “What did I do?” And then they say, “It doesn’t matter, just answer the question,” and I’m like, “Well, it’s important to me! What, do I look like I’m going to stab you in your stupid moron face or something?” And then after one intense minute of gazing straight into the blacks of their eyes, I follow up with, “Bone-in ribeye, medium rare, an ice-cold glass of Cherry Coke Zero, and a platter of two dozen baked clams, extra lemon.” I love and have been loved by so many foods in my life that there’s no way I could ever pick a favorite, but I know that if I’m in a place where there’s baked clams on the menu, I will order them 100% of the time. And that includes when I’m on death row for reasons that, apparently, don’t matter... until they do.
I always thought baked clams were one of the finer things in life, meant only for special occasions like a birthday dinner at your favorite Italian restaurant or partying down before a state-sanctioned murder. But they’re not! And I don’t like having to wait for special occasions to feel joy and taste clams. I want to live!
This dish is weeknight simple, but it makes enough portions that you can share it with friends for a casual mid-week get together. I enjoy serving it with lots of fresh lemon, a nice shaving of aged Manchego, and a delicate green salad tossed with a zippy lemon vinaigrette that may or may not be laced with rat poison, since that’s much more polite than stabbing someone in their stupid, moron face. You really shouldn’t do that sort of thing when you have company over.
- 1/2 lb. bacon
- 1 small onion, diced
- 6 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 3 cans clams
- 2 bottles clam juice
- 1 tsp. hot paprika
- 2 tsp. salt
- 5 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup finely chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
- 1/4 cup shaved Manchego, plus extra for serving
- Zest and juice of 1 large lemon, plus two additional lemons, cut into pieces, for serving
Use kitchen scissors to cut all but two slices of the bacon into 1" pieces, and cook them in a cast iron skillet over high heat until they’re ultra crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Drain the excess bacon fat from the skillet and reserve to use another day.
Add the onion, garlic, and 2/3 of the diced red pepper to the skillet and saute for 2-3 minutes until softened. Deglaze the skillet with white wine, then dump the whole shebang into the bowl with the bacon. Then add the remainder of the ingredients to the bowl and mix well with a wooden spoon until thoroughly combined, but not so much that it becomes dense and soggy. Put the mixture back into the skillet, spread out evenly, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.
Shortly before the 25 minutes are up, cut the remaining two strips of bacon into 6 pieces and parcook them (I like microwaving wrapped in paper towels for 2 minutes) until they’re slightly firm and pink.
When the timer goes off, remove the clam pie from the oven and turn the broiler onto high. Arrange the bacon on top of the pie, shave more Manchego on top, and slide the pan under the boiler until the bacon crisps—about 3 minutes or so. Remove from oven, sprinkle with parsley, spritz with lots of lemon, and serve immediately.