Smoked Clams Casino is the perfect grilled appetizer to enjoy on a beautiful day.
Buttery clams combined with bacon and breadcrumbs make this a casino where the house always wins! Grilled up on my pellet smoker with a cold nearby this will be a crowd-pleaser for sure.
History of Clams Casino
Clams Casino first showed up on menus in the early 1900s in the Northeastern United States. Legend has it they were first served at the little Casino in Narragansett Rhode Island.
Created as a special request of a woman who was looking to impress her guests. The recipe traditionally includes clams, bell peppers, bacon, and breadcrumbs but there are many variations.
In New Orleans, Oysters Casino is very popular due to the abundance of oysters in the Mississippi and nearby gulf.
Different types of Clams
There are many different varieties of clams but the ones most commonly consumed are found in the northeastern United States.
Other varieties like Manila clams found on the west coast are small and sweet, mainly served in pasta dishes or steamed and served with clarified butter.
You also have varieties like Atlantic and pacific razor clams as well as the very peculiar-looking Geuduck clam.
East Coast Clams
The clams I grew up on all hail from the northeastern United States. Clams and other shellfish were the main sources of sustenance for the Native Americans of the Narragansett tribe.
Their name for the mollusk was poquauhock which over time morphed into the word quahog by early English settlers.
Clams are named and classified based on size, the smaller clams are sweeter and more tender while larger clams have a tougher texture often chopped up for soups and chowders.
List of Quahog Clams Smallest to Largest
- Countneck-smallest legally harvested clam
- Little neck- commonly steamed, sweet and tender
- Top Neck- medium size still tender enough to serve whole
- Cherry stone- most popular for grilling or stuffed clams
- Chowder- largest of the quahogs, Mainly chopped for soups and stews.”
Chowder clams are sometimes called Quahogs especially by northeastern natives.
How to Purge Clams
When purchasing clams you may need to do some work before cooking. Oftentimes the outer shells will be muddy with some sand on the outside.
Always ask your fishmonger if the clams have already been cleaned and purged. If not, it’s no big deal and you’ll just need to clean them yourself.
Simply give the clams a light scrub under cold water and rinse thoroughly. Next, you’ll need to purge any sand out of the clams by soaking clams in cold water for about 2 hours.
This will make sure you don’t have gritty clams when you eat them after cooking. I prefer to purge my clams in salted water so they still have that clean saltwater flavor.
How to Prepare Smoked Clams Casino
I worked at a restaurant in Maryland right outside Baltimore that served tons of clams casino. It was definitely one of the most popular appetizers on the menu.
We served smaller clams and topped them with a bacon garlic butter mixture then topped with provolone cheese before broiling in a hot oven.
The bubbly hot cheese is held in the buttery bacon and clam mixture also keeping the clams hot. For this recipe, I wanted to use a larger clam so I chopped the cooked clams and combined them with the bacon and garlic butter.
Instead of steaming the clams, we’re going to use the pellet grill to heat the clams and open them up.
this will impart an extra smoky flavor to the clams casino that really makes this recipe special.
Once the clams open up be careful when removing them from the grill because there will be some leftover liquid in the shell that is scalding hot.
How to Plate and Serve Clams Casino
Once those beautiful Smoked Clams Casino are cooked and ready to eat you’ll want to just put them on a plate. One problem.
They’re gonna slide everywhere and either falls off the plate or be a complete pain in the ass to eat. To fix this we’ve got 2 options.
They make plates specially for clams casino and oyster Rockefeller that have impressions to hold the shells in place. Your other option is to simply mix a cup of kosher salt with about a tablespoon of water together.
The salt will clump up and then you can spoon out dollops on the plate to set the clams in.
It’s a really nice presentation and only takes an extra second to prepare. other than that a few lemon wedges and a couple of sprigs of parsley and you’re set.
More Fantastic Seafood Recipes
- New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp
- Easy At Home Boiled Lobster w/ Drawn Butter
- Chesapeake Crab Butter Sauce
- Creamy White Crab Chili
- Cedar Plank Smoked Crab Cakes
Smoked Clams Casino
- Pellet Grill- I used the Rec Tec RT-700
- Rinse and srub the outside of each clam using cold water. once the clams are clean fill a large pot or bowl with cold water and a ¼ cup of salt. let the clams sit in the water to purge for about 2 hours. let butter sit out to soften while clams purge.
- Preheat the Pelet grill to 325 degrees F.
- cut raw bacon into 1 inch pieces and saute until crispy. Remove bacon and let coll on a paper towel. saute the scallions, diced bell pepper and garlic in the bacon fat. then let cool to room temperature.
- fold the sauteed vegies, crispy bacon and ¼ cup of the pork king good breadcrumbs with the softened butter. then mix in remaining seasonings and 2 tbsp parmesan cheese.
- once the clams are purged drain them off and pat dry. place them on you pellet grill to cook for about 25 minutes until the shells have completly opened. carfully remove the clams from the grill. once cooled down harvest the clams from the shells and chop them up to a medium dice. a few big chunks is ok but overal they should be evenly chopped.
- Increase the temperature of the pellet grill to 400
- Fold the Chopped clams into the casino butter mixture. then split apart the shells and rinse off any shell fragments. Scoop a heaping spoonful of the casino butter into 24 shells. Stir together the remaining pork king good breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese then sprinkle over the clams
- place the clams on a sheet pan and cook at 400 degrees in the pellet grill for 10-15 minutes until the crumbs on top are golden and the butter begins to bubble out the sides.