“Redneck” Clams Casino
1/4 cup pork lard (or substitute butter)
2 Tbs. yellow cornmeal
2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 cup canned tomato purée
3 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1 Tbs. hot sauce, preferably Crystal
1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. sugar
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
2 cups spicy mustard greens, stemmed and chopped
1 cup small dice of bacon
1 cup crumbled corn bread, dried overnight (recipe follows)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 Tbs. chopped chives
2 Tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 doz. littleneck clams
For the corn bread:
2 cups Anson Mills yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1½ cups buttermilk (Cruz recommended)
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 Tbs. bacon fat (Benton’s recommended)
2 Tbs. bacon pieces (Benton’s recommended)
For the tomato gravy, melt lard in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add cornmeal and flour and stir constantly on low heat. Cook until mixture has aroma of baked corn bread, about eight minutes. Vigorously whisk in milk and tomato purée, trying to avoid lumps. Add crushed tomato, hot sauce, lemon juice, sugar, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and fold in mustard greens.
For the crumbles, put the bacon in a skillet large enough to hold it in one layer and cook it over medium-low heat, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t burn, until the fat is released and the pieces of bacon are crispy, four to five minutes. Add bacon and grease to dried corn bread crumbles. Fold in eggs, Parmesan, chives, and parsley.
To assemble the dish, shuck clams using a clam knife, free clams from the shells and place them in the half shell. Spoon tomato gravy on top of clams and cover with crumble. Place them under the broiler for approximately five minutes, or until the crumble is golden brown. Plate on a bed of rock salt and serve immediately.
For the Corn Bread:
Preheat oven to 450°F. Place cast-iron skillet in oven to preheat for at least 10 minutes. Mix all dry ingredients. Whisk together buttermilk and egg and stir into dry ingredients. Stir in the bacon fat and pieces.
Move skillet from oven to stove, placing it over high heat. Add a tablespoon of bacon fat to skillet and swirl it to coat. Making sure the batter is stirred well, pour in the batter, distributing it evenly. Bake corn bread for about 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.