The simple clam. Italians have found many ways to savor this delicate mollusk. Raw right out of it’s shell, sprinkled with flavored bread crumbs and baked, sautéed with a mixture of garlic and oil and served over pasta, just to name a few. I grew up eating raw clams as part of a ritual when my father would take me to Manhattan Beach in Brooklyn. After a day at the beach we would walk to Sheepshead Bay and stop at a strip of restaurants that were opposite the rows of charter boats that would take you out for a day of fishing. We would stop at Joe’s Clam Bar, an unpretentious restaurant that had an open outdoor window that you could walk up to and order the tasty clams. Little Necks and Cherry Stones were both $1.25 per dozen, quite a difference from todays prices. Of course we would order two dozen of the Cherry Stones because they were larger and gave you more value for your money. The man on the other side of the window stood in front of a large metal sink filled with the clams covered in ice. We watched him shuck each clam and place them on a heavy paper plate, waiting in anticipation for the cool, briny mollusk we would suck down. Once he was finished he put a couple of lemon wedges and a little cup of cocktail sauce on each plate and served them to us. At once I squeezed the lemon wedge over the clams and place a dot of cocktail sauce on each clam. There were bottles of vinegar with hot peppers marinating in them close by but I liked mine with just lemon and cocktail sauce. I sucked the clams out of their shells and enjoyed the chew of each one and the taste of the sea that flavored them. The dozen was gone in an instant and I knew I could eat more but my father warned me that my mother was preparing supper and we did not want to go home full.
This dish combines two of my favorite food groups, pizza and clams. It’s a simple recipe that highlights the taste of the clam. Unlike other traditional toppings, clams add a delicate flavor to the pizza and you don’t want to over power it with other strong flavors.
For the Pizza Dough (makes 2 – 10″ x 14″ trays of pizza)
- 600 g of bread flour
- 1 packet of instant dry yeast
- 18 g of salt
- 440 g of warm water
In a large mixing bowl add the yeast to the warm water. Add the flour and mix with a heavy spoon until all the flour is moistened. Add the salt and mix for another minuet. Cover and allow to rest for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes you can turn the dough onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes or use the dough hook in your stand mixer and mix for 10 minutes. Avoid added too much additional flour, this is a wet dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in the bowl and flip coating both sides with oil. Cover and let rise for 2 hours.
In the meantime you can prepare the pizza topping.
- 3 large cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil plus 2 tablespoons per pan
- 1 cup of shredded or sliced mozzarella cheese, about 8 ounces
- 2 – 7.5 ounce jars of baby clams, juice drained and reserved. I used Bellino whole shelled baby clams
- 1/4 teaspoon of dried oregano for each pizza
- 2 tablespoons grated Pecorino Romano cheese for each pizza
- 2-4 tablespoons of reserved clam juice per pizza
- Juice of half a lemon
- Red pepper flakes to taste, optional
Mix the garlic and 1/4 cup of olive oil in a small bowl.
Turn out the pizza dough onto a floured surface and cut into two portions. Place one of the portions back in the bowl and cover while you prepare the first pizza.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
Spread out two tablespoons of plain olive oil in each of the two pizza pans.
Take the first portion of pizza dough and spread it out with your hands to reach the edges. If it doesn’t stretch all the way, wait 5 minuets to let the dough rest and it will be easier to finish.
You can now do the same for the second pizza pan.
Brush the garlic and oil mixture over the dough of each pizza. Season with salt and black pepper. Scatter the mozzarella and clams over each pie. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the reserved clam liquid over each pie. Add the oregano and Pecorino Romano cheese.
Let pizza rest for about 15 minutes. Bake in the oven for 17- 20 minutes. When you remove the pizza from the oven squeeze about a quarter lemon over each pie. Cut and serve.