Cooking On A Budget: And the Oscar Goes To ...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

And the Oscar Goes To ...

This year on Sunday, February 26th will be Oscar Night hosted by Billy Crystal. I love it when he does the show! It is always entertaining and fun and the clever openings he does are phenomenal.

At some point in the 1990's, my sister came up with an idea which was to throw a small Oscar Night Party. Our family loves watching movies and especially love quoting memorable lines from some of our favorite movies.  The idea was to make an appetizer or dish related to an Oscar winning or nominated movie - it did not matter the era it was from. Some of the dishes were quit clever.

For instance, I made my delicious baked stuffed clams and labelled them (thanks to my brother-in-laws wit), "Silence of the Clams". I also made a dish with mango and called it "Last Mango in Paris". Well now you get the drift. Donned with the mask I borrowed from my sister-in-law I showed up as Whoopie Goldberg, host of the Academy Awards. Needless to say we enjoyed an array of appetizers and watched the Oscars together. So, why not host your own Oscar Night party and bring family and friends together over some tasty delights!

My recipe for the Stuffed Clams - I make these with a basic recipe in my head and I have made them so many times I can usually smell the uncooked clam filling to know if I need to adjust anything. You will need to adjust spices accordingly.  I suggest you make it as I have listed in the recipe, mix together and bake one off to test it.  The recipe I have makes a ton of these; however the good thing is you can freeze them prior to baking them. Just be sure to wrap them well.  Then, when you are in the mood for more, take them out of the freezer, defrost and bake!
Baked Stuffed Clams - Appetizer Size
Instead of purchasing Little Neck Clams for each time I want to make these, I have a friend of my daughter who goes clamming and he now provides me with the empty shells. I use canned whole baby clams so I don't have to buy Little Necks at all.
The recipe that follows makes around 50 clams. I stuff them well. If you don't have clam shells you may have to make an initial purchase of some Little Necks to pull off this recipe. Obviously, you would need to save both halves of the clam. So if you do clams on a half shell with cocktail sauce - save the shells. Wash them thoroughly and run them through your dishwasher to sanitize the shells. You could also stuffed these in a "quahaug" shell should you have these on hand.

I use a food processor to "chop" the onion, celery and red pepper and to mince the bacon and grind the crackers.
6 - 10 oz. cans whole baby clams
1 large sweet onion - finely chopped
1/2 large red bell pepper - finely chopped
4 stalks celery - finely chopped
2 sleeves Lunch Milk Crackers - finely ground
2 sleeves Club Crackers - finely ground
1 lb. bacon - cooked crispy
1 stick butter - plus 3 tbsp. melted butter for brushing the tops of the clams prior to baking.
1/2 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. paprika
2 tbsp. parsley flakes

Layout bacon on a foil lined baking sheet and put in a 350-375 degree oven to get the bacon crispy. Get that going and continue on with the recipe.
In a food processor, finely grind the crackers and add them to a very large bowl. Next grind the onion, celery and bell pepper until finely ground.
In a large skillet melt the stick of butter and over moderately low heat, saute the onion, celery and pepper.  Cook until the onion is translucent and the other veggies have soften.  Add this mixture to the bread crumbs.
When the bacon comes out of the oven, grind that in the food processor and add to the mixture of bread crumbs and celery, onion and peppers.
Open the 6 cans of clams and drain 2 cans (save the clam juice just in case).  Add the remaining 4 cans, juice and all to the mixture along with the drained clams.
Next, add in all of the spices and the Parmesan cheese. Using your hands, blend everything together. If the mixture seems to dry, add some of the reserved clam juice.
Like I said earlier - fill one clam shell and bake and taste for additional seasoning or more Parmesan cheese. Once you are satisfied, fill all the clam shells, brush tops with melted butter and bake uncovered at 350 degrees for approximately 30-40 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
One final note: I save the shells and wash them over and over to use.

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