Clams Casino & Oysters Rockefellers

Try Chef Smitty’s recipes for:

  • Snail & Colbert butters
  • Herb Butters
  • Hollandaise Sauce

One of the reasons I look forward to summer is the seafood. I know you can get seafood all year, but for me summer is seafood season. When I was at Nantucket, Mass., I would be getting the freshest seafood every couple of days. In Tahoe, with a passion for fishing, I have plenty of opportunities to have fresh trout or bass on a regular schedule. The good thing about fish and seafood is the shear variety of choices and the equal number of ways of preparing them.

READ MORE: Snail & Colbert butters

Clams and oysters are two items that fit into the multi-use category. Often found in entrées, such as linguini with clam sauce or bouillabaisse, they are also front-runners on the appetizer menu. Probably the most common preparation is to simply pop the shell open by cutting the connective muscle and serving them on the half shell with a squeeze of lemon and a little cocktail sauce. If you happen to be at a bar, you can add a little vodka and call it a clam or oyster shooter. For those not interested in eating a raw clam or oyster, there are other cooking alternatives. Two of my favorites are Clams Casino and Oyster Rockefellers.

READ MORE: Herb Butters

These appetizers do not seem to be quite as popular in Tahoe as they once were, but in most coastal towns and on the East Coast, they are still popular. They are simple to make and a great hit at any party. Both are shucked. Be sure that all the shells are closed before you open them. If any shells are even partly open and do not close tightly when you wash them, throw them away. Once dead, shellfish will almost immediately start to emit a kind of ammonia that can be toxic. When in doubt, throw it out. Once the shells are open and the meat is carefully separated from the remaining half of the shell by cutting the connective muscle, put on toppings and either bake or broil.

Clams Casino

Clams Casino is especially easy to prepare. Some chefs will pour a few drops of white wine onto the clam, place a piece of bacon on it and broil it until the bacon is cooked. I like to add a small amount of snail butter or some other garlic and herb butter before putting on the bacon. Then, when the butter is melted and the bacon is done, they are ready to be served.

Oyster Rockefellers

Oyster Rockefellers are a bit more work, but a food processor will get all the tough stuff done. All you have to do is put all the ingredients in a food processor until well chopped and mixed, then sauté the mix in butter. Season the mixture with Pernod, garlic, Tabasco, and salt and pepper to taste. Place some of the mix on each of the oysters and bake for a few minutes to heat up. Add a small spoon of hollandaise sauce and you are ready to go.

If you want to get fancy, you can try putting the sauced oyster under the broiler for a minute to brown the hollandaise. One thing many chefs will do is fold a little white sauce into the hollandaise before browning so the sauce will not separate when cooking.

READ MORE:  Hollandaise Sauce

No matter how you decide to prepare your shellfish, whether it is with butter or browned hollandaise sauce, you know they are not going to be on the table long. They will be a treat that will disappear as fast as you can make them, so enjoy.

Clams Casino
12 clams, shucked
12 t garlic herb butter
3 slices bacon, cut into four pieces each
white wine

Place butter on each clam. Top with bacon and a few drops of white wine. Place under a broiler until the butter is melted and the bacon is cooked.

Oyster Rockefellers
12 oysters, shucked
1/2 C celery
¼ C scallions
¼ C parsley
¼ C watercress
¼ C shallots
¼ C spinach
2 sticks of butter
2 oz. Pernod
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper

Sauté all the ingredients, from the celery to the spinach, in the butter. Season with the Pernod, garlic, Tabasco, salt and pepper. Bake in the oven until warm and top with hollandaise sauce.

Chef Smitty
Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.