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01/18/2017

~ Go Bananas: Banana-Nut Chocolate-Chip Muffins ~

IMG_5272Go bananas or gone bananas -- an idiom implying one is or has gone mildly crazy.  When it comes to well-made muffins, I am not mildly crazy about them, I am certifiably crazy about them. I prefer a muffin to a cupcake, and, to be clear, I personally would choose a banana-nut muffin over a banana chocolate-chip muffin.  That said, it's not always about me:  some folks dislike or have a bona fide allergy to nuts, and, unlike me, many others just love and crave chocolate.

IMG_5276"Let's meet for coffee." (Said by me never.)

"Let's meet for coffee."  It's something I rarely agree to, but, when I do, if I can order a muffin too, I do. The golden-domed banana-nut muffin I ordered at a local café yesterday sucked.  When I pushed it to the side after nibbling on two small pieces, my friend Bob offered to try a piece.  He agreed it had about as much taste as tofu, suggested that chocolate chips might taste better (than nuts), then made the questioning statement, "that's if chocolate chips can be substituted for nuts."  Bob's not a cook.  I replied, "One reason the muffin has no flavor is the bananas used were not ripe enough, and yes, chocolate chips can be substituted for nuts, or, you can add 'em both.  It's like making chocolate-chip cookies with or without nuts -- you do what you like best."

IMG_8010"So, what's the difference between a muffin & a cupcake?"  

"So, what's the difference between a muffin and a cupcake?"  One tasteless banana muffin turned into an interesting conversation (and this blog post).  Generally speaking, I like to keep the answer to this question simple.  A cupcake is a cup-sized cake with a light, soft texture, and, a muffin is a cup-sized loaf of "quick-bread" (a quick-to-mix-together bread leavened with baking powder and/or baking soda rather than yeast) with a denser, crumbier texture.  A cupcake is sweeter than a muffin and a muffin is sweeter than a traditional loaf of bread with one caveat:  a muffin can be savory too, a cupcake cannot.  Cupcakes are usually piped or slathered with frosting, while muffins get nothing at all, a sprinkling of sparkling, coarse-textured sugar, and/or, a crumbly streusel sprinkled on their tops -- sometimes they have a thin glaze too, but, that's not my cup-of-tea.  Cupcakes are, in fact: dessert.  Muffins can be dessert, but, they are generally considered a breakfast treat.  To say that muffins are inherently healthier is a misconception -- the muffin you get a your local bakery or Starbucks often have as many as 600+ calories.

IMG_2068Go bananas, but, PLEASE use over-ripe bananas when baking.

6a0120a8551282970b01bb08141119970dI eat a pretty yellow banana almost every day of my life.  Pretty yellow: that is my favorite stage of ripeness for eating and it's one of my favorite snacks on a busy day.  I only buy bananas 2-3 at a time because I won't eat them past pretty yellow.

That said, when I know I'm going to be baking banana muffins or banana bread, I purchase my bananas about week ahead of time. The bananas pictured here took a full 7-8 days to get to the perfect banana-muffin ripeness.  Over-ripe bananas, are incredibly fragrant, sweet and flavorful -- a lot more than the pretty yellow ones.

Time to bake banana-nut chocolate-chip muffins.

IMG_5191For the bananas:

2 - 2 1/4  cups mashed bananas, from 5-6 large, over-ripe bananas (pictured above)

For the wet ingredients:

1  cup salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

1 1/2  cups sugar

2  large eggs, at room temperature

2  teaspoons each:  banana and vanilla extract

1/2  cup + 2 tablespoons milk

For the dry ingredients:

4  cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1  tablespoon baking powder

1  teaspoon baking soda

1/2  teaspoon sea salt

For the add-ins:

2  cups chopped walnuts or pecans

1 1/2  cups chocolate chips

no-stick cooking spray, for preparing muffin cups 

IMG_5194 IMG_5204 IMG_5195 IMG_5198 IMG_5202~Step 1.  Preheat oven to 350°. Lightly-spray the cups in standard-sized muffin tins (enough for 24 muffins) with no-stick cooking spray and set aside.  Chop and place the nuts in a small baking pan and lightly-toast them for about 6 minutes.  Remove from oven and set aside to cool.  In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients:  flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Note:  If you are using unsalted butter, increase the amount of salt to 3/4 teaspoon.  

In a second medium bowl, on medium speed of hand-held electric mixer and working your way up to high speed, process the bananas until "mashed".  Measure and set aside 2-2 1/4 cups.

IMG_5207 IMG_5209 IMG_5211 IMG_5213 IMG_5215 IMG_5217 IMG_5218 IMG_5222 IMG_5224 IMG_5225 IMG_5228 IMG_5233~Step 2.  Place butter, sugar, eggs and extracts in a large  bowl.  Starting on medium mixer speed and working up to high, cream these ingredients together, about 30-45 seconds, scraping down sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula the entire time.  Lower  mixer speed and blend in the milk, followed by the mashed bananas.  In 2-3 increments,  thoroughly incorporate the dry ingredients.  Remove mixer and use the spatula to fold in the nuts and chocolate chips by hand.

IMG_5236 IMG_5239~ Step 3. Using a 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, distribute batter into each of 24 muffin tins whose cups have been sprayed lightly with no-stick cooking spray.  If there is any batter left in the bowl, use a teaspoon to distribute and dollop a bit of additional batter into the center of each muffin cup.

IMG_5246~ Step 4.  Bake muffins, all at once, on center rack of preheated 350° oven, until puffed up, golden, and, a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20-22 minutes.  Remove from oven to cool, in pans, on a wire rack for 5-6 minutes.  Use a sharp paring knife to carefully and gently loosen and remove muffins from tins to cool on rack completely, about 1 hour.

Muffin(s) going into oven to bake in 350° oven, 20-22 minutes:

IMG_5244Muffin(s) out of oven, cooling in pans, 5-6 minutes:

IMG_5254All muffins out of pans & on a rack to cool completely: 

IMG_5257Go Bananas:  Banana-Nut Chocolate-Chip Muffins:  Recipe yields 2 dozen muffins.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; small baking pan; hand-held electric mixer; large rubber spatula; standard-size muffin tins, enough for 2 dozen muffins; 2 1/2" ice-cream scoop; cake tester or toothpick; wire cooling rack; sharp paring knife

IMG_2563Cook's Note:  Corn muffins are an example of savory muffins that get served as a side-dish.  They taste spectacular with a bowl of chile, a rack of barbecued spareribs and Tex-Mex breakfast casseroles.  I take my recipe for ~ It's a Triple-Corn Jalapeno Corn-Muffin Kinda Day ~ very seriously.  You can find it in Categories 5, 9, 13 or 20. 

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

01/15/2017

~ Butter Me Up: Mel's Capellini a la Clams Casino ~

IMG_5180Classic and fantastic, I made clams casino over the weekend -- a retro Italian-American favorite appetizer that pleases everyone who loves clams.  Steamed clams, on the halfshell, slathered with an herby bacon-and-garlic compound butter, topped with a mound of crunchy bacon-and-breadcrumb mixture, baked until golden brown.  What's not to love.  There were just three of us, two guys and moi -- we ate two dozen and would have eaten more (and I stopped at four).  

IMG_5162Earlier in the afternoon, as I was preparing the compound butter and breadcrumb topping, it occurred to me how yummy the butter would be if tossed into a bowl of steaming hot pasta and topped with a sprinkling of crunchy breadcrumbs -- to serve as a side-dish to clams casino.  It was only natural for my foodie mind to take it one step farther:  toss steamed, shucked clams into the pasta too -- to serve as an entrée.  I slept on it, awoke with it, and decided to get on it.

IMG_5110It only took about 30 minutes to whip up another batch of compound butter and make the breadcrumb topping (that's how quick and easy they are to make), adjusting (cutting back) both recipes quantities a bit to accommodate 1 pound of pasta -- a family-friendly amount.  I sent Joe off to get more clams and here I am -- happy as a clam in Happy Valley writing about my latest creation.  It didn't take me long to come up with a name for it either, after Joe opined that I use capellini -- not spaghetti.

Part One:  Burping or Purging the Clams of Sand:

IMG_5086Soaking clams in cold water helps them burp out or purge the sand.   All clams, which live on the ocean floor, contain sand.  It's caused by their constant siphoning the sandy ocean water through their shells. One of the least appetizing foodie experiences is to eat a forkful of perfectly-cooked clams and end up with grit in your teeth -- a clear sign that the cook or chef didn't burp or purge the clams.  Its an easy process but requires a couple of hours, so include that in your game plan (or do it the day before).    

Gently tap each uncooked clam whose shell is open against your countertop. It should close immediately upon tapping. If it does not, it's dead and should be discarded.  Rinse the clams under cold running water and use a stiff brush to scrub the shells of dirt or grit.  Place the clams in a large bowl and cover with a mixture of 1 gallon of water + 1/4 cup sea salt per 2 pounds of clams.  Let for about 30-45 minutes, then remove the clams individually and place in a colander. Discard the water in the bowl, replace with a fresh water and salt mixture, then return the clams to soak for another 30-45 minutes. Repeat the process another two or three times, until the water is clear of sand and grit.  Drain and cook the clams in any manner you like.

Part Two:  Making Breadcrumb Topping & Compound Butter

IMG_50157  ounces finely-diced uncooked bacon or pancetta (total throughout recipe -- 4  ounces for breadcrumbs, 3 ounces for compound butter)

1/2  cup panko breadcrumbs, no substitutions

8  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

1/2  cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion

1/4  cup each:  red and yellow bell pepper

2  tablespoons minced fresh garlic

2  tablespoons dried parsley flakes or tarragon leaves (total throughout recipe -- 1  tablespoon for breadcrumbs, 1  tablespoon for compound butter)

1 1/2  teaspoons fennel powder (total throughout recipe -- 1/2 teaspoon for breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon for compound butter)

3/4  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper (total throughout recipe -- 1/4  teaspoon for breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon for compound butter)

scant 1/2  teaspoon sea salt (total throughout recipe -- 1/8 teaspoon for breadcrumbs, 1/4 teaspoon for compound butter)

lemon wedges, for squirting each finished serving of capellini a la clams casino

IMG_5024IMG_5026IMG_5027IMG_5029IMG_5030IMG_5034IMG_5050~Step 1.  To make the breadcrumb topping, place 4 ounces of the finely-diced bacon or pancetta in a 3-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides. Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon fennel powder, 1/4 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper and 1/8 teaspoon sea salt.  Over medium-high, medium-, medium-low heat, stirring frequently, fry the meat until it is golden brown and crispy and has rendered its fat, about 6 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary if the mixture begins to smoke. Add the panko breadcrumbs and parsley or tarragon.  Stirring constantly, cook until breadcrumbs are lightly-toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to thoroughly drain and cool.  You will have 3/4 cups of breadcrumb topping.

IMG_5036IMG_5039IMG_5042IMG_5043IMG_5052IMG_5055~Step 2.  To make the compound butter,  place the remaining 3 ounces of the finely-diced bacon or pancetta in the same 3-quart chef's pan.  Over medium-high, medium-, medium-low heat, stirring frequently, fry the meat until it is golden brown and crispy and has rendered its fat, about 6 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary if the mixture begins to smoke.  Stir in the onion, bell peppers, garlic and parsley or tarragon.  Add the 1 teaspoon fennel powder, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.  Stirring constantly, cook until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to thoroughly drain and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Place butter in a large bowl and add the cooled meat/veggie mixture to the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly combine.  You will have 1 1/2 cups of compound butter.

Part Three:  Perfectly-Steaming the Clams

IMG_5097The shells on clams should be closed when you buy them, or, they should close when tapped (as explained above).  A clam that will not close when prodded is a dead clam.  Throw it away.  Fiction:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a dead clam. Fact:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a live clam that needs to be cooked longer.  I've got 48 live topneck clams which have been purged as directed above -- that works out to IMG_5125be a generous 2-cups of shucked clams -- one dozen for each of four servings of pasta.  Feel free to change the amount to suit yourself.  

I am giving them a basic steam in plain water today,  until each one opens up wide.  I like to use my electric skillet for this task because it controls the heat perfectly, and, it has a glass lid which acts as a window -- allowing me to remove each clam the moment it opens up, so it doesn't overcook.  I do this in two batches of 24 clams each so as not to overcrowd the skillet.

IMG_5057 IMG_5058 IMG_5061 IMG_5126~Step 1.  Place 1 quart water in bottom of electric skillet and insert the rack.  Close the lid and adjust the heat to high (400° on this skillet).  In the meantime, drain and discard the water from the bowl of clams.  When the water in the skillet is boiling, open the lid and place 24 clams on the rack.  Close the lid and steam clams until each one pops open. Opening and closing the lid on the skillet as you work, use a pair of tongs to remove the steamed clams as they open, transferring them to a plate or a bowl to cool.  Repeat this process with the second 24 clams, adding 1-2 cups more water to the skillet to make up for what evaporated.  When cool enough to handle, pluck the clams from their shells and place in a bowl.  You will have 2+ cups.

Part Four:  Cooking, Tossing & Serving the Capellini a la Casino

IMG_51301  pound capellini

1  tablespoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta water

1  teaspoon garlic powder

1  teaspoon red pepper flakes

1  teaspoon sea salt, for seasoning pasta 

1  cup compound butter, slightly more or less to your liking (from above recipe)

48  steamed and freshly-shucked clams (from above recipe)

3/4  cup breadcumb topping (from above recipe)

lemon wedges, for garnishing each portion

IMG_5131 IMG_5135 IMG_5141 IMG_5144~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a boil and add the salt.  Add the capellini and cook until al dente, about 4-5 minutes.  Check it every few seconds after 4 minutes. Do not over cook.  Drain into a colander and give it a few quick shakes to remove excess water.

IMG_5146 IMG_5147 IMG_5150 IMG_5189~Step 2.  Place 1 cup of the compound butter in the still hot stockpot and add the garlic powder, red pepper flakes and sea salt.  Return the steaming hot pasta to the pot and place the pot on the still-warm stovetop.  Using two forks or spoons, toss like you would a salad, until butter is melted and pasta is coated in butter "sauce".  Cover the pot and give the pasta a moment or two to absorb all of the butter and it flavors.  Taste and add a bit more butter, to your liking, or, serve the remaining 1/2 cup with a crusty loaf of bread at the table (it's great).  Place one dozen clams in each of four warmed bowls and portion the pasta over the top of each.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs over each portion and serve immediately with lemon wedges for squirting over the top.

Mel's capellini a la clams casino?  I'll be making this again!

IMG_5178Butter Me Up:  Capellini a la Clams Casino:  Recipe yields 3/4 cup breadcrumb topping, 1 1/2 cups compound butter and 4 generous servings.

Special Equipment List:  stiff scrub brush; board; chef's knife; 3-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; spatula; paper towels; large spoon or spatula; large rubber spatula; 16" electric skillet w/wire rack insert; tongs; 8-quart stockpot; colander; two large forks or two large spoons

6a0120a8551282970b01bb096ca115970dCook's Note:  It's funny how a craving for seafood always hits me around this time of year. Luckily, high-quality, flash-frozen, king crab legs are available to me year-round at our Happy Valley Sam's Club.  ~ Mel's Wine & Tarragon-Steamed King Crab Legs w/Creamy Lemon-Tarragon & Shaved-Corn Orzotto ~ is a dish I simply adore.  It's a perfect cold-weather seafood-craving indulgence.  The recipe is in Categories 3, 4, 14 & 21.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)

01/12/2017

~ Classier Classic Clams (on the Halfshell) Casino ~

IMG_5110I've never gone to a casino for the sole purpose of gambling -- I've never even had the urge to. That said, thanks to more than a few of Joe's business trips I've been to Las Vegas, Reno and Atlantic City several times for days-at-a-time -- complete with gorgeous hotel rooms, tickets to live shows and dinners in fabulous restaurants.  That said, casinos are indeed a glitzy, glamorous full-of-fun place to visit.  They're akin to amusement parks for adults, and, just like the latter, "the bloom comes off the rose" rather quickly  -- fun facades that suck up your bucks.

Clams Casino is considered a Classic Italian-American Dish.

Interestingly, clams casino is a clams "on the halfshell" dish that has little to do with the gaming industry per se, although every casino restaurant or restaurant in the vicinity of a casino has a variation of the dish on their menu.  Clams casino, which means "big mess" in Italian, is a basic concoction of clams, bacon, butter, and breadcrumbs that work spectacularly together.  Onion, garlic and bell peppers are common additions along with various herbs and seasonings.  

IMG_5104According to legend the recipe was developed in 1917 by Julius Keller, the maître d'hôtel of the Little Casino in Narragansett, Rhode Island, for a Mrs. Paran Stevens, who wanted to treat her guests to a special appetizer.  The dish was named "Casino" after the hotel and quickly became a signature appetizer throughout New England, then throughout the United States, including New Orleans, where oysters are substituted for clams.  It's worth mention that in the early decades of the last century, if a restaurant wanted to be well-known, they came up with a signature dish that involved the baking of shellfish, often with the meat taken out of the shell, prepared with a sauce, then returned to and served in the shell.  This dish became extremely popular with Italian-Americans and to this day has a spot on just about every trattoria menu.

Clam-guide2Clams casino is traditionally made with littleneck or cherrystone clams.  That said, gorgeous top necks is what was available to me in Happy Valley today and they're gonna work out just fine.

Part One:  Burping or Purging the Clams of Sand:

Soaking clams in cold water helps them burp out or purge the sand inside the shell.    All clams, which live on the ocean floor, contain sand.  It's caused by their constant siphoning the sandy ocean water through their shells.  One of the least appetizing foodie experiences is to pick up a forkful of perfectly-cooked clams and end up with grit in your teeth -- a clear sign that the cook or chef didn't burp or purge the clams to remove the sand.  Its an easy process which requires a couple of hours, so include that in your game plan, but, it can be done hours or a day ahead.    

Gently tap each uncooked clam whose shell is open against your countertop. It should close immediately upon tapping. If it does not, it's dead and should be discarded.  Rinse the clams under cold running water and use a stiff brush to scrub the shells of dirt or grit.  Place the clams in a large bowl and cover with a mixture of 1 gallon of water + 1/4 cup sea salt per 2 pounds of clams.  Let for about 30-45 minutes, then remove the clams individually and place in a colander. Discard the water in the bowl, replace with a fresh water and salt mixture, then return the clams to soak for another 30-45 minutes. Repeat the process another two or three times, until the water is clear of sand and grit.  Drain and cook the clams in any manner you like.

Part Two:  Making Breadcrumb Topping & Compound Butter

IMG_501510  ounces finely-diced uncooked bacon or pancetta (total throughout recipe -- 7  ounces for breadcrumbs, 3 ounces for compound butter)

1  cup panko breadcrumbs, no substitutions

8  ounces salted butter, at room temperature, very soft (2 sticks)

1/2  cup finely-diced yellow or sweet onion

1/4  cup each:  red and yellow bell pepper

2  tablespoons minced fresh garlic

2  tablespoons dried parsley flakes or tarragon leaves (total throughout recipe -- 1  tablespoon for breadcrumbs, 1 tablespoon for compound butter)

2  teaspoons fennel powder (total throughout recipe -- 1 teaspoon for breadcrumbs, 1 teaspoon for compound butter)

1  teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper (total throughout recipe -- 1/2  teaspoon for breadcrumbs, 1/2 teaspoon for compound butter)

1/2  teaspoon sea salt (total throughout recipe -- 1/4 teaspoon for breadcrumbs, 1/4 teaspoon for compound butter)

lemon wedges, for squirting each finished serving of clams casino

IMG_5024 IMG_5026 IMG_5027 IMG_5029 IMG_5030 IMG_5034 IMG_5050~Step 1.  To make the breadcrumb topping, place 7 ounces of the finely-diced bacon or pancetta in a 3-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon fennel powder, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.  Over medium-high, medium-, medium-low heat, stirring frequently, fry the meat until it is golden brown and crispy and has rendered its fat, about 6 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary if the mixture begins to smoke. Add the panko breadcrumbs and parsley or tarragon.  Stirring constantly, cook until breadcrumbs are lightly-toasted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to thoroughly drain and cool.  You will have 1 1/2 cups of breadcrumb topping.

IMG_5036 IMG_5039 IMG_5042 IMG_5043 IMG_5052 IMG_5055~Step 2.  To make the compound butter,  place the remaining 3 ounces of the finely-diced bacon or pancetta in the same 3-quart chef's pan.  Over medium-high, medium-, medium-low heat, stirring frequently, fry the meat until it is golden brown and crispy and has rendered its fat, about 6 minutes, lowering the heat as necessary if the mixture begins to smoke.  Stir in the onion, bell peppers, garlic and parsley or tarragon.  Add the 1 teaspoon fennel powder, 1/2 teaspoon coarsely-ground black pepper and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.  Stirring constantly, cook until vegetables are softened, about 3 minutes.  Remove from heat and transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to thoroughly drain and cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.  Place butter in a large bowl and add the cooled meat/veggie mixture to the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, thoroughly combine.  You will have 1 1/2 cups of compound butter.

Part Three:  Partially-Steaming the Clams

IMG_5086The shells on clams should be closed when you buy them, or, they should close when tapped (as explained above).  A clam that will not close when prodded is a dead clam.  Throw it away.  Fiction:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a dead clam. Fact:  A clam that doesn't open during the cooking process is a live clam that needs to be cooked longer.  I've got 24 live topneck clams which have been purged as directed above.  I am giving them a basic steam, in plain water today,  until they just begin to open up, 1/4"-1/2", to partially-cook them.  Some recipes don't steam them at all, they just pry the shells open (which takes quite a bit of strength) and work with raw clams. Partial-steaming makes them easy to pry open -- the clams themselves remain plump and juicy.  I like to use my electric skillet for this task because it controls the heat perfectly, and, it has a glass lid which acts as a window -- allowing me to know just when to remove each clam.

IMG_5057 IMG_5058 IMG_5061 IMG_5064~Step 1.  Place 1 quart water in bottom of electric skillet and insert the rack.  Close the lid and adjust the heat to high (400° on this skillet).  In the meantime, drain and discard the water from the bowl of clams.  When the water in the skillet is boiling, open the lid and place all of the clams on the rack.  Close the lid and steam clams until each one opens up between 1/4"-1/2". Opening and closing the lid on the skillet as you work, use a pair of tongs to remove the partially-steamed clams as they open, transferring them to a plate or a bowl to cool.  

IMG_5066~ Step 2.  When the clams are cool enough to handle with your hands (about 15 minutes), pry them open. Using a pair of kitchen shears clip and remove the empty shell side, then, use the shears again to carefully clip and loosen the clam from it's half of the shell.  Place "clams on the halfshell" on one large baking pan (or two smaller pans if you won't be baking them all at once).

Part Four:  Assembling and Baking the Clams Casino

IMG_5070 IMG_5074Step 1.  Dollop a generous teaspoon of the compound butter onto the top of each clam and spread it around to the edges.  When this melts around and down underneath the clam it is going to keep it plump, moist and juicy as it bakes.

Note:  At this point, clams can be covered with plastic wrap and refrigerated for several hours or overnight.  Remove from refrigerator 1-2 hours prior to continuing with recipe as directed below:

IMG_5076 IMG_5080~ Step 2.  Top each clam with a scant tablespoon of the breadcrumb mixture, allowing it to mound a bit toward the center.  Bake on center rack of preheated 400 degree oven until golden brown and bubbly, about 6 minutes.  Do not over bake.  

Remove pan of clams from oven and rest about 3-5 minutes.  Trust me on this.  The heat of the shell will keep them warm while the time allows all of the flavors and textures to come together.

Serve 4-5-6 per person, garnished w/lemon wedges:

IMG_5103Happy as a clam can get in Happy Valley:

IMG_5116Great to the last flavorful slurp too:

IMG_5122Classic & Classy Clams (on the halfshell) Casino:  Recipe yields 1 1/2 cups breadcrumb topping, 1 1/2 cups compound butter and 24 topneck-clam-sized appetizers/4-6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  stiff scrub brush; board; chef's knife; 3-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; spatula; paper towels; large spoon or spatula; large rubber spatula; 16" electric skillet w/wire rack insert; tongs; kitchen shears; 1, 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan or 2, 12 1/2" x 8 3/4" baking pans (Note:  I like to use two disposable aluminum broiler pans, the kind with the corrugated bottoms.  They prevent the clams from sliding around and there is zero cleanup.)

6a0120a8551282970b015390c1d94c970bCook's Note:  It's funny how a craving for seafood always hits me around this time of year. Luckily, high-quality, flash-frozen, king crab legs are available to me year-round at our Happy Valley Sam's Club.  ~ Mel's Wine & Tarragon-Steamed King Crab Legs w/Creamy Lemon-Tarragon & Shaved-Corn Orzotto ~ is a dish I simply adore.  It's a perfect cold-weather seafood-craving indulgence.  The recipe is in Categories 3, 4, 14 & 21.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2017)