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What makes a good clam pizza?

So I love pizza. And I love clams. I just had never thought to put the two together. But I keep reading about this delicious concoction found readily in New Haven and surrounds. If I have my meager facts straight, it's a sauce-less pie starting with a stone baked charred crust. I recall olive oil and garlic. no mozzerella, and clams. But what kind of clams? Canned or fresh? Chopped or whole? ....Littlenecks, cherrystones, sea clams, strips?..... Basil or oregano?..... Parmesan?....before or after it comes out of the oven? Any and all details are appreciated as I'm going to try to coax my local pizza palace into developing a decent clam pie. Hell, it's Cape Cod....we got the clams!

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  1. olive oil,garlic,chopped up fresh little neck or maybe cherrystones{lightyly chopped,maybe just in half]and bacon.finish it with a little grated parm,delish!!! think a clams casino pizza...

    1 Reply
    1. re: im hungry

      Bacon, too? Is that automatic when you get a clam pie at say, Pepe's or Modern, or would one have to specify adding it.?

    2. You're not going to find absolute consistency on this in the New Haven area. The Pepe's original clam pie is just crust, whole fresh shucked littlenecks, olive oil, garlic, oregano, and a little parmesan, put on before cooking. I prefer mine with pecorino instead of parmesan, and a little bit of lemon juice (caramelizing the lemon a bit in the pizza oven is important). The only two factors you must have are good crust, and good clams. I would imagine you could use just about any hard shell clam, though sticking to littlenecks will mean you don't have to chop them. Aside from littlenecks, the only kind I have used are manila clams, which were quite good, though that was a decidedly non-traditional clam pie (peanut oil, shallots, chili peppers, lemongrass, galangal, coriander, and kaffir lime). Just don't use canned clams, which are fine for clams casino with mozzarella and maybe even tomato, but taste nasty in a simple traditional clam pie. Another good variation I've tried had pesto sauce, and, if you want a more New England flavor, treat it more like clam chowder (saute some onions and celery in salt pork drippings with a bay leaf or two, add a small amount to the crust with the clams). As it's the Cape, you could also consider an oyster pizza, which is good either in the style of a simple oyster stew or in the style of oysters Rockefeller.

      9 Replies
      1. re: danieljdwyer

        Y'all sure makin' me hungry!
        I did a head jerk when you said, "(caramelizing the lemon a bit in the pizza oven is important)".
        HUH?

        1. re: Scargod

          that doesnt make any sense to me either,although lemon on there is great.and at pepes and modern the bacon is an add on,a very delicious on at that,but still an add on.

          1. re: Scargod

            What, they don't grill lemons in Texas?
            Grilled, seared, or baked in an 800+ degree oven, they caramelize pretty quick. Of course, you've got to cut them in half first.
            I didn't realize this was an unusual thing. In the parts of the world that have been growing lemons for a millennium or more, raw lemon is basically unthinkable. Outside of lemonade, I can't think of any time a lemon is better raw. Caramelizing as part of the cooking process adds depth of flavor so that when you squeeze that lemon on, you're getting something more than just brightness and acidity. Squeeze gently though. Even though you lose a lot of moisture in the cooking process, the juices of a cooked lemon flow a lot more freely.
            This is veering off topic quite a bit, but, in Valencia, they often stick salted lemon halves flesh side up in the paella pan when it goes into the oven. A paella oven in Valencia is about as hot as a good pizza oven in the Northeast US (so 800 degrees is the low end of the scale). Words can't describe how much better this is than the comparably pathetic raw lemon wedges you get around here with paella cooked in a 475 degree oven.

            1. re: danieljdwyer

              We grow lemmons in Texas. That's all I know. Some of us Texans are stupid fuckers; dumber than rocks. I said it. Before Passadumkeg (who I wonder about myself), or Vaguo, or is it "Veggo"(?) get to it, I have said it. Not only we fell off the turnip truck; we landed on our haid. We lost our bearings and our marbles... We realy don't know a turnip from a tulip! Lemmons be yeller, right?
              The thought that you'd cook a lemmon is mind bageling. Who'd a thunk it?
              Howsome ever, I am now in the midst of great minds. I pass among Yalies all the time. I even get to go into their buildings and dorms! No alarms go off...
              I think some of thair intellegence is rubbin off.
              So, right now, I'm marinatin lammie chops in wine with lemmon juice 'n lemmon rind. Still can't bring myself to cook one.

              1. re: Scargod

                On the lamb again, huh Tex? I thought since the Texas range wars no self-respecitin' Texan would eat one of them thar wooly critters. Sorry for beefin'.

                Your Ol' Pard Dumb Keg

                1. re: Scargod

                  So...on topic...a good clam pizza requires Texan grilled lemons? Or am I too just a stupid fucker?

                2. re: danieljdwyer

                  I've made pizza with very thinly sliced lemon or orange, it's very good, and it does caramelize nicely. Never tried it with clams through. Anchovies, yes (added to cooked pie).

                  1. re: danieljdwyer

                    DJD has described the perfect clam pizza. Thin crust, freshly shucked clams (chopped if large, whole if small), garlic, oregano, lemon juice. YUM!

                    1. re: danieljdwyer

                      Appreciate the information on the lemons. I don't have in my subconscience memories of knowledge of grilled lemons either. But it sounds good and your information was very educational. I'm working on a regional recipes project. Clam pizza sounds perfect for my next project.

                      Its helpful to know about the fresh clams as well. I do imagine that if all one can get is pre-"shucked" or canned, then one would want to use cheese, tomato (as I've seen in some recipes) or a cream sauce. You know? Might be better for me to sub fresh oysters, I can get them here.

                      While I don't take your "unthinkable" comment as offensive, you an always treat someone's comments (if they appear "uninitiated to the ways of your area/cuisine, as a GREAT opportunity to teach something wonderfully tasty.

                      Who knows, one day you may encounter a technique or ingredient you've not heard of. I'm sure you will enjoy picking up new tips yourself. :-)

                3. you may want to squeeze fresh lemon on top. that's how I roll and it's awesome. I do the same w/ white broccoli pizza.

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: shoreline

                    I like it without the mozzarella , just clams. olive oil, garlic. parmesan and a bit of oregano.

                    1. re: mmalmad

                      carmalized lemoins are good...dip the cut end in simple syrup and put it face down on the grill...it burns...you get a whole different flavor from the juice...had it Max's in Glastonbury the other night.

                      1. re: sodagirl

                        In my opinion, mozzarella on a while clam pie is sacrilege! As stated above, there are few ingredients: FRESH clams (and not the kind that come preshucked and are of indeterminate origin!), olive oil, lotsa garlic, a sprinking of oregano and grated cheese - no bacon, nothing else! I am also of the school that appreciates a squeeze of fresh lemon!
                        A further prerequisite is a thin crust. Given the delicacy of the clams, too much dough really detracts from the taste.

                        1. re: lsnhc

                          Ok, this seems to be the consensus choice. Only question, chopped fresh clams or whole? I've read whole here but when I Google Image "Pepe clam pie" the photos appear to show minced clams, although I am not entirely sure. Also, anyone know if Pepe's tops the crust with clams before baking, or at some point half way through?

                          1. re: CapeCodGuy

                            it depends on the size of the clams i guess.we had a pepes clam pizza a couple of weeks ago,every thing goes on the pie at the start,the ovens so hot it cooks in a couple of minutes.we do love bacon on there to,but were of the "bacon makes anything better"school of thought.interesting about the lemon factor,i love a good squeeze on the clam pie too.

                            1. re: im hungry

                              Me don't want to BUY it, Me wants to MAKE it. Never though of making a clam pizza. Just guessing,...I think that small whole, fresh, un-opened clams, added to a partially-baked crust could be very good. Some of the liquid released from the clams upon opening would evaporate in the extreme oven temps? I find it difficult to duplicate the ultra-high heat of a commercial pizza oven at home,..especially, if you use parchment paper (beneath the pizza) when it goes into the oven. What are the temps involved here...? Use a very hot grill..?

                  2. There is a great clam pie that is served at Tarry Lodge in Port Chester that has small clams in their shells. As the pie cooks, the clams open and when you remove them as you eat, they release their briny broth onto the pie. It is super delicious.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: roxlet

                      I think I'd have to be there... Brine on pizza? "Wet" pizza?

                      1. re: Scargod

                        It's not really wet, just salty and briny. The clams are tiny.

                        1. re: roxlet

                          Second roxlet's post. Really tasty. Tarry Lodge (Mario Battali's suburban outpost) clam pizza out shines Pepe. The manilla clams cook in their shells and thus aren't tight and rubbery as Pepes.

                    2. A place called Franny's here in New York makes a great clam pizza with no cheese but a cream glaze on top. If you're interested in making it yourself, the Times printed the recipe:

                      http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/20/din...

                      I've made it, labor intensive but delicious!

                      1. I love clams!

                        How do you make the pizza so that the clams don't get tough?

                        1. Tarry Lodge in Port Chester, NY makes an amazing clams with garlic and oregano pizza. i go there whenever I am in the NY area. 914-939-3111. they also make a goat cheese pizza with truffle honey and pistachios. amazing! and a black truffles with a sunny side egg. you won't be disappointed. ... susan in west marin

                          1. When I lived in Northern Italy, Clam Pizza was served in many Pizzeria's in the areas near Venice and Venice itself. They did not serve the clams on a charred crust at all! The crust was definitely hand tossed, and sauceless, but most had a blend of mozzarella and Parmesan and Romano on top of the clams. The clams did not taste rubbery so I can only assume they were not cooked before putting them on the Pizza. From what I could tell, the clams were placed on the pizza with what tasted like finely cut parsley and then the cheese blend thinly applied and topped with a good drizzle of good Olive oil! They were always wonderful, and I only wish I had one of those wood ovens they baked in!!!! I have never tasted New Haven Pizza, but want to go there. I recently found out back in my family genealogy, one of the founders of Hartford, CT was a 12th cousin back before the Revolutionary War in 1636, so I now have two reasons to go!!!!

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: Mariposa410

                              As a native New Havenite, strike the secon reason. Come for the Apizza, get a great white clam pie at Pep's on Wooster St.

                              BUT: New Haven and Hartford were separate colonies and had no connection whatsoever EXCEPT that they were founded by Englishman and are both located in what is now Connecticut.
                              Harford Colony was founded by breakaways from Massachusetts Bay Colony, New Haven Colony was a direct destination. After statehood, bith cities were capitals of the state for a time with the legislature shifting back and forth.

                              1. re: bagelman01

                                I'm puzzled. I don't see any mention of a sauce. Is there one? Alfredo or the white sauce with a linguini dish?

                                1. re: mucho gordo

                                  Pepe's really just uses, garlic, oil and the natural juices from their fresh shucked clams to form the sauce,
                                  Personally, I prefer a RED clam and bacon with grated pecorino Romano, no Mozz.

                                  1. re: mucho gordo

                                    In most places in Northern Italy, it was pretty much oil, garlic probably brushed onto the crust and then the Clams with juice, and whatever spice they used (looked and tasted like fresh Parsley though) and then the cheese blend topped with a drizzle of olive oil. No Alfredo, Pesto, or Tomato sauces used!!!

                                  2. re: bagelman01

                                    I was listening to a rerun of a Splendid Table podcast recently, where Michael & Jane Stern were talking about clam pizza. They specifically raved about Zuppardi's Apizza in West Haven. You can listen to the segment here: http://splendidtable.publicradio.org/...

                                    1. re: CindyJ

                                      I hate the crust at Zuppardi's, much too thick and doughy for me. No coal fired oven either. Zuppardi's is best known for their sausage pie, unfortunately, I don't eat sausage.

                                  3. re: Mariposa410

                                    I can still Visit both places, though!!! New Haven for the Clam Pizza (and my husbands Italian Heritage in Food), and Hartford for my Puritan roots and actually my 12th Great Grandfather (not cousin, I found out), Dr. Thomas Lord. They cannot be that far apart (realize I live in Colorado, where driving 100 miles to get somewhere can be a norm!) I also have to admit I do not remember much of our pre-Revolutionary War History, and have never been past New York City and Northern New Jersey (where the US Air Force returned us after three years in Italy in route to a New Assignment in Oklahoma - another story). But after retirement and starting in a more intense search of my genealogy, I definitely want to go back to my History Books. Both Us and World!

                                    1. re: Mariposa410

                                      It's a funny pride thing. I'm from New Haven, wife from Hartford, 34 miles aqnd worlds apart.
                                      Completely different cuisine and customs.
                                      I love the Yankess, and Hartford is Red Sux country.

                                      1. re: bagelman01

                                        I know how that can go! I grew up in St. Louis, and have always been a BIG Cardinal an, to this day. I live in Colorado which is mostly Rockies Fans. But I have a brother who moved to Chicago, and he no longer is a Cardinals supporter, but is definitely a Cubs supporter! And the food between St. Louis and Denver and now Colorado Springs (where I live now) are day and night difference. And even between St. Louis and Chicago!!! St. Louis Pizza is NOT Chicago and their "Deep Dish" pizza!!! And here in Colorado, Denver has a larger populus of Italian's and their Pizza is much better than any I have found down here in Colorado Springs!!!! But neither Denver or Colorado Springs matches what I eat in St. Louis; and none to me matches what we eat when we go back east to visit family in New York or New Jersey!!! It is definitely the dough and how they top the pizza. The sauces are also miles apart. I definitely like the North east part of the countries Pizza the best. But having lived three years in Northern Italy, I loved the Italian Pizza we ate in the Venice and Florence areas the best. Even in Italy, Pizza differed depending where you were. So it truly is a matter of your personal taste for the whole set of ingredients in making Pizza!!!!

                                  4. Another point of view on the lemon. Add fresh oregano and then grate lemon zest on a fresh out of the oven clam (shucked that day), garlic, bacon, olive oil, and parm and or peccorino pie.