Clam pizza

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Clam pizza is such a Connecticut thing. I'm sure some would argue that it's also a New York thing, but I feel like Frank Pepe, the New Haven pizza institution, is best known for it's clam pizza, and thus, clam pizza is a Connecticut thing. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

I first tried this briny, garlicky pie on a trip to Connecticut long before moving here myself. And I've been on a Goldilocksian journey to find the best one ever since. They have either been too salty, not garlicky enough, or without cheese and that is not acceptable to me when it comes to pizza. (Don't yell at me, people who think seafood and cheese should never mingle.)

Some slapdash mis-en-place.

Some slapdash mis-en-place.

We have not yet found our favorite (sorry, Pepe's), but instead have been making our favorite. Full of three different kinds of cheese and two different kinds of garlic, this pizza tastes like clams and tastes like a proper pizza, but also SO MUCH MORE. 

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I used a pizza stone on a grill because a) not everyone has a grill, so you can easily recreate this in an oven with the pizza stone (see directions in the recipe); and b) because I've never grilled my pizza directly on the grates. If you're braver than I am, here are some instructions for that method.

If you aren't as into garlic (this recipe calls for 10 cloves!), either reduce the number of fresh cloves or just use the roasted ones. Their flavor is much mellower and blends well with the cheese.

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And please do garnish with the lemon and sea salt. They make a huge difference in the end product.

Clam pizza

1 pizza dough
Flour to prevent sticking when rolling out dough
Coarse corn meal, about 2-3 Tbsp
1 cup ricotta cheese
6-7 roasted garlic cloves (see method below)
2-3 large raw garlic cloves, minced
2 cans clams, drained (about 4 oz of clam meat)
1/2- 3/4 cup nutty cheese such as gruyere, sharp cheddar, gouda (not smoked), or fontina,
shredded
1 cup mozzarella, shredded
Parsley
Lemon wedges
Sea salt
Crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

For the roasted garlic:
Preheat the oven or toaster oven to 400. Smash 10 cloves of garlic, but don't remove the peels. Add them to a small oven proof container. I usually use a ramekin or a coffee mug. Cover with olive oil. Cook in the oven until the garlic is bubbling and fragrant and the cloves are very soft when (carefully! hot oil!) pushed on with a spoon, about 10 minutes.

Preheat your grill on high or your oven at 500. Remove the top rack of your grill or the second rack of your oven and move the remaining rack to the lower middle portion of the oven. (You want enough room above the rack to negotiate your dough onto the pizza stone, but be close enough to the top of the oven to easily brown your cheese. Add the pizza stone and let heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prep all of your toppings. Add the raw and roasted garlic to the ricotta, drain your clams, and shred and combine the mozzarella and nutty cheeses. Set aside. 

On a floured pizza board, roll out or press out your dough until very thin. Lift up half of the dough and scatter the coarse corn meal underneath. Repeat on the other side. Jiggle your pizza board to make sure that the dough will slide off easily. 

If cooking in the oven, add your toppings before placing the raw dough on the pizza stone, periodically shaking the pizza board to make sure that the topped dough will slide off easily. If the toppings are weighing down the dough too much, carefully add more corn meal under the crust.

Slide the topped, raw dough onto the pizza stone carefully. Cook for 6-8 minutes without opening the oven. Check the pizza and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until the cheese and the sides of the crust begin to brown. Check the bottom crust for doneness (it should be golden brown and crispy). Remove from the heat and top with chopped parsley, sea salt, lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes (optional).

If cooking on the grill, make sure all of your toppings are measured and easily spreadable. Slide the plain, raw dough onto your grill and quickly top with the ricotta and garlic mixture, the clams, and the shredded cheeses. Close the lid to the grill and let cook for 5 minutes. Check for doneness continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until the crust and cheese begin to brown.

Check the bottom crust for doneness (it should be golden brown and crispy). Remove from the heat and top with chopped parsley, sea salt, lemon, and crushed red pepper flakes (optional).

One note about grilling, the number of burners on your grill will change the speed at which this pizza cooks. A 6-burner grill might take less than 5 minutes, so check it sooner. A 3-burner grill might take a minute more. Use your judgement based on your grill or oven.

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Kitchen clambake

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What says summer more than a clambake? NOTHING! Well, maybe BBQ chicken, ice cream, popsicles, hamburgers, hotdogs, corndogs, corn, tomatoes, strawberries, blueberries, s'mores...you get the picture. But, clambakes are pretty darn summery. And did you know how easy they are? Super easy.

We've been using Martha Stewart's method for years and it's a pretty no-fail recipe as long as you cook things in the right order. However, Martha's recipe is HUGE and requires an extra large pot, which we don't have. Also, there are only three of us. So, I've scaled this one back and added some more tips to make sure you aren't overcooking any of the seafood.

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Also, this meal is so so quick to prepare and easy to clean up, leaving more time for all things summer.

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A couple of notes:
- Feel free to sub in water or stock instead if you want to avoid alcohol. But rest assured that the booze cooks out with the heat AND, the beer is only there for flavoring in the steam; You aren't actually eating it.
- Use the smallest potatoes you can find. If you have even golf ball sized potatoes, I would halve or quarter them to ensure that they cook enough.
- Clean the clams or mussels well. I like to put them all in a large pot of cool water a few hours before we cook them to let the shells open to release the sand.
- Swap in mussels for the clams or use a combination of both, but only use 1 lb. You can also use scallops, squid, or octopus in place of, or in combination with, the shrimp. I don't always love steaming those three because there's a thin margin of error for overcooking and turning them really tough, but if you like their flavor, go for it! But also use a total of 1 lb with those or a combination. 
- Don't skip the garlic butter for serving. This recipe is great without it, but the garlic butter takes it right over the top.
- For a dairy-free option, use clarified butter instead of regular butter. 

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Stovetop clambake

1 large onion
3 cloves garlic, smashed
1 cup beer
1 cup water
1 tsp sea salt
1 lb small potatoes (if slightly bigger, like the size of a golf ball, quarter the potatoes before cooking) 
8 oz sausage, cut into chunks (whatever your favorites are: I like chorizo or andouille. Just make sure it’s in a casing)
2 lobster tales (about 8-10 oz total)
1 lb clams or mussels (or a combination)
2-3 ears of corn cut in half or thirds
1 lb shrimp, in or out of the shell

4 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 large garlic clove, minced
Fresh parsley (optional; I left it out because I generally dislike parsley)
1 large lemon
Old bay seasoning

Chop the onions and smash the garlic. Add to a large pot with beer, water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium. (You still want some vigorous bubbling, but you don’t want too much of the liquid to evaporate.) Cover with a steamer basket (or, as we did, a small pizza sheet because we couldn't find the steamer basket. Whoops.)

Add the potatoes, sausage, and lobster tails to the steamer. Cook for 5-6 minutes until the shells start to turn orangey red.

Add the clams (or other hard-shelled seafood like mussels) and the corn. Steam for another 6-8 minutes until the shells open. Discard any shells that remain closed.

Add the shrimp (or other soft shelled or de-shelled seafood) and cook for about 4 more minutes until the shrimp is pink all over.  

While making the seafood, melt the butter in a ramekin and add the chopped garlic and parsley (if using). Stir to combine and set aside.

Dump out the seafood, veggies, and sausage onto a large, parchment-covered sheet pan. Sprinkle with old bay seasoning to taste. Serve with lemon wedges, extra old bay, and garlic butter.

Yield: A lot. This recipe comfortably feeds 2 adults and 2 kids, likely with leftovers.

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Gnocchi clam chowder

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This here is the tastiest, fastest, easiest, most comforting clam chowder you may ever eat.

I start with Jasper White's legendary New England clam chowder recipe, but I use canned clams, a bottle of clam juice, and gnocchi instead of fresh clams, homemade clam juice, and potatoes. I'm sure the original, fully-handmade version is delicious, but who has the time? I also change up the technique so that this soup comes together in minutes, but tastes like it simmered for hours.

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I also make this recipe using milk instead of cream because we NEVER have cream in the house. And when we do, I only need a tiny bit and then the rest goes bad because we don't use it. Instead, I use a little more butter when sauteing the aromatics to add richness.

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Just a note, this chowder is a soup-y chowder. Some people like their chowder to have a thick gloopy consistency, but I prefer a slightly thinner soup. The gnocchi is soft, so you do get a hint of a thicker soup, but with more broth. Win-win, I think. If going gluten-free, either look for gluten-free gnocchi or swap in diced potatoes for the gnocchi and cook the soup until the potatoes are fork tender.

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Gnocchi Clam chowder

2 6.5 oz cans of chopped clams (use brine to make up the 2 cups of clam juice)
2 cups (8 oz) bottled clam juice
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 large shallots
1 large clove garlic
1 large stalk celery
1 tsp dried thyme
1 cup milk
1 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 lb potato gnocchi (1 package)*

Open the cans of clams and drain the water into a measuring cup. Add more clam juice until you have two cups of liquid. Set aside the clams and the juice. 

In a medium soup pot, melt the butter and sauté the shallots and celery until browned, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Transfer the sautéed shallots, celery, garlic, and thyme to a blender or food processor. Add the milk and puree until smooth.

Return the milk puree to the large pan with the clam juice, water, thyme, and gnocchi. Bring to a boil and cook for 3 minutes, or according to package directions.

Add the reserved clams and cook for 1 minute more.

Remove the bay leaf. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.

Yield: 53 oz, or about 6 cups

*If making ahead of time, make the soup liquid up to the point where you add the gnocchi and boil. Instead of adding the gnocchi, combine the liquids and canned clams, transfer to storage container, and chill for up to 2-3 days. When you want to eat, transfer the liquid back to a pot, bring to a boil, add the gnocchi, and cook for 3 minutes, or until gnocchi begins to float.

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