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Clams Casino and Soave

Of course food and wine can transport you to a particular place – sip a muscadet with fresh oysters and you might as well be lunching in the Loire Valley. But what about time travel? In the weekend’s Wall Street Journal, wine columnists John Brecher and Dorothy Gaiter discussed Soave, that forgotten italian white that went the way of one-too-many-buttons unbuttoned on a leisure suit but is now showing signs of being reinvigorated by some modern producers dedicated to quality. And in passing, they mention clams casino as an equally out-of-date dish to pair.

Which got us thinking. We’ve heard that this is the worst recession since the 70s. If we could travel back in time via clams casino and a glass of Soave, maybe we could offer a historical perspective on the current crisis. Having just returned from our trip this morning, we have this advice to offer: (1) everything is going to be okay eventually; and (2) everything is better with bacon on it.

Clams casino is deceptively easy, makes a great presentation and is surprisingly economical (a dozen clams will only set you back about 8 clams). The fish counter is happy to open the clams for you and leave them in the shell. Each wine store has a different Soave, they’re both from producers with an eye to resurrecting the reputation of Soave and will complement the dish.

Cantina del Castello Soave Classico 2007 (Manhattan)
Filippi Soave 2006 (Brooklyn)

Clams Casino

12 littleneck clams left in half shells
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup pancetta or bacon (we used Schaller & Weber double smoked) chopped into small pieces
1/2 cup red pepper chopped fine
1/4 cup shallot chopped fine
2 small garlic cloves chopped fine
1/2 cup white wine (great excuse to open the Soave!)
3 tablespoons grated parmesan
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper
leisure suit

Put on leisure suit and button to navel. Uncork Soave and pour glass for self and best friend’s wife. Preheat oven to 500F. Pour olive oil into skillet and heat. Add bacon. Cook for 3 minutes or until bacon bits are crispy. Remove bacon with slotted spoon and reserve, leaving oil in skillet. Pour two more glasses of Soave. Add shallot, garlic, red pepper and dried oregano to oil in skillet and cook 3-5 minutes until shallots are translucent. Add wine and simmer until wine is almost evaporated. While you’re at it, top off the two glasses of Soave. Remove from heat and cool. Stir in bacon bits and 1 1/2 tablespoons parmesan. Place clams on 1/2 shell on baking sheet covered in tinfoil. Make sure the clams are not attached to the shell – cut if necessary. Place small spoonful of bacon mixture onto each clam and use remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons of parmesan to sprinkle over clams. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. While clams are cooking, swirl, swish and swallow Soave. Remove from baking pan with spatula and serve immediately with Soave!

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