From the Kitchen of... Geoff Hall
Among his friends and family, one thing Geoff Hall is known for is his clams casino. It’s not a recipe anyone ever gave him. “Over maybe 25 years, I’ve just made it up as I’ve gone along,” he said.
At this time of the year some folks might wonder about the first part of this process — the clamming, but Geoff prefers being out on the Great Salt Pond in December more than in July. “You have the pond all to yourself. It’s just so quiet, and the cold weather isn’t a problem.” He has his waders and still takes his beers in a cooler to keep them from freezing. He also takes his shucking knife and a bottle of Frank’s hot sauce along “for the good ones.”
When he was a kid, Geoff clammed with his dad, Allen Hall. Now, clamming is a family event for the next generation. Geoff’s wife, Gail, prefers to bring her own cocktail sauce. She remembers when their son, Griffen, was small and she “watched him walking along the beach eating raw clams.”
Geoff put his clams casino together for us while we sat around their handsome new kitchen. Along with his clams, we had some of Kirk Littlefield’s smoked bluefish and a glass of wine. Perfect on a cold, rainy evening.
Usually Geoff makes four times this recipe, divides it up and freezes it in Ziplock bags. When he’s ready to use it, he thaws out a bag, cuts off a corner and squeezes a dab of the mix over each clam.
So, do you add salt? “Nope, there’s no reason to add salt to this recipe. Clams live in salt.” And, he adds, “Don’t get fussy. Take it from here. Add, subtract, whatever you like, and make it your own.” — Becky Ballard
Geoff’s Great Salt Pond Clams Casino
½ package (16-ounce) Italian stuffing mix
3 sleeves Ritz crackers, crushed
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
50 to 60 littleneck, topneck or cherry stone clams
6 strips bacon cut into 1 ½-inch pieces
In a large bowl, mix together the stuffing mix, cracker crumbs, bell peppers, garlic, hot pepper flakes, and Parmesan. Process sauce in batches in Cuisinart adding enough wine to moisten “to the consistency of soft butter.” Set aside.
Fill a large pan with a lip (about 9” x 16” in size) with rock salt.
Shuck clams, and place on the half shell on the rock salt. Preheat the broiler. Spoon about a heaping teaspoon of sauce over each clam. Top with a piece of bacon.
Broil clams about six inches below broiler for 5 to 6 minutes, or until edges of bacon are lightly browned. Watch them carefully. Serve hot. Enjoy a few cold Budweisers as you prepare the clams.
Makes… “a lot!”