Crock It! Slow Cooker Clams With Bacon And Tomato

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MyVeronaNJ-Crock It!-Clams

Thanks to my father, I remember trying my first lobster, in Maine. The way the story goes, he wasn’t actually expecting me to like it, but of course I did because sometimes that how things work out with kids. I love most shellfish. Do I have a favorite? Not really but I’m a sucker for soft-shell crabs in the spring and I love the large Patagonian shrimp; they’re almost like mini-lobsters. I’d say this all has nothing to do with my Crock-Pot®, but then that just wouldn’t be true. I believe that slow cooking can have a place in the world of shellfish. Yes, there are limitations, but with a little creativity and planning, one can absolutely take advantage of the flavor benefits of all-day simmering if one’s expectations are properly set.

There are a couple of ways to cook shellfish on the stove. The first, and most common in my house, is to dump clams into a pot of boiling water.  The second is to bring a few different ingredients together to simmer in a pot and then, when that combination of flavors is steaming hot, add shrimp, mussels or clams to the pot, cover it and let the steam do its job to cook the shellfish.

Believe it or not, this second process works with a slow cooker as long as a couple of adjustments are made along the way.  The beauty of using a slow cooker for shellfish is that you can set up your “broth” early in the day, around lunch time. Let the flavors simmer for a few hours and about 45 minutes before eating, raise the heat and then cook the shellfish. It’s completely different from the way I have used my Crock-Pot® in the past, but I needed a change and I do love my shellfish.

I’ll be honest; my first attempt was a disaster. The shrimp was overcooked, the clams took forever to open and I’m not sure how much of it I even ate. So sad. This recipe is about a thousand times better and I’m not the least bit shy to say I ate every last clam in that bowl.

Crock It! Clams With Bacon and Tomato

Ingredients:

6 slices of thick cut bacon sliced into 1/2″ pieces

1/2 yellow onion, diced

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 can diced tomatoes, undrained

1 8-oz. bottle clam juice

3 tablespoons small capers with juice

2 dozen littleneck clams, cleaned*

What’s Next:

Cook bacon in a skillet and drain on paper towels.

Cook onion in bacon drippings in the same pan for 1 minute. Add oregano and cook for 2 minutes more.

Place bacon and onions in slow cooker. Add tomatoes, capers and clam juice. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook on low for at least 3 hours.

45 minutes before serving, turn heat up to high.

After 15 minutes, add clams and re-cover quickly. Cook for 30 minutes more (without removing the top, regardless of how desperate you are to check on the progress) or until all clams have opened. Discard any unopened clams.

Notes from my experience:

My ideal type of clam to use for this would be the really small Manila clams, but they are not easy to find. I bought mine at Whole Foods and asked for the smallest Little Necks they had in order to have an even amount of cooking time.

Thick cut bacon is definitely best for this recipe and feel free to trim off a bunch of the fat. There will be plenty left within the bacon for cooking and flavoring.

I served this over linguini which was perfect for incorporating the sauce into something other than the clam shell.

Depending on how many people you are feeding, you may want to have more clams. This recipe will comfortably serve two, unless you are me and don’t want to share.

*Cleaning clams: Place clams in a large bowl in the sink and rinse well several times with water. Alternatively, you can leave the water from the sink running into the bowl as a slow stream so the water isn’t stagnant.

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