Rhode Island—Small in Size, but Large in Independent Attitude
Being a bit independent myself, I admire Rhode Island’s history. Its tradition of independence and dissent gave it a large role in the American Revolution:
- First of the thirteen colonies to renounce its allegiance to the British Crown on May 4, 1776.
- Last of the thirteen colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution on May 29, 1790
(And that was only under threat of heavy trade tariffs from the other 12 former colonies, and they were assured that the Bill of Rights would become part of the Constitution.)
Dutch explorer Adrian Block named Rhode Island "Roodt Eylandt" which was the Old Dutch spelling of "red island", in reference to the red clay that lined the shore. The name was later anglicized when the region came under British rule. (Check out Let’s Go for the 5-word name the Brits gave it way back then, and learn what happened in 2020.)
Classic Clams Casino is a delicious, easy appetizer to make when I have my girlfriends over for an evening of hors d’oeuvres, cocktails, and long chats. Clams, bacon, butter, bread crumbs? Irresistible, right?
This dish is most often credited to Julius Keller, who claimed to have invented it when he was an employee at Rhode Island's Narragansett Pier Casino. Contrary to its name, the Narragansett Pier Casino was not a gambling hall, but instead an upscale resort property built in the mid-1880s.
Ingredients for 4 | Multiply by degree of hunger, divide by number of girlfriends!
- 12 hard-shell clams (littlenecks or cherrystones), scrubbed
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red bell pepper
- 1/3 cup finely chopped shallot
- 1/4 cup dry white wine or vermouth
- 1/2 cup coarse fresh breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
- 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 3 slices bacon, sliced crosswise, 1/4 inch thick
- Lemon wedges, for serving
Position a rack in the center of the oven, and heat the broiler on high.
Arrange the clams on a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet. Broil until they open, 5 - 7 minutes.
As each clam opens, remove with tongs, and transfer it to a clean, rimmed baking sheet to cool.
Once all the clams have opened, collect any spilled clam juice from the first baking sheet in a measuring cup.
When the clams are cool enough to handle, discard the top shells with these steps:
- Pick up a clam
- Hold the bottom shell
- Keeping the clam level, twist off the top shell
Arrange the opened clams on the baking sheet. Run a spoon underneath each clam to loosen it from its bottom shell.
Pour the reserved clam juice (from the Step 4) over the clams.
Melt butter in an 8-inch skillet over medium heat.
Add the bell pepper and shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the wine and cook until the liquid is reduced by half, about 2 minutes.
Remove the skillet from heat. Stir in breadcrumbs, Parmigiano, parsley, and a few grinds of black pepper. (Do not season with salt.)
Spoon some of the breadcrumb mixture onto each clam. Top each with a tangle of bacon strips.
Broil the clams until the topping is just browned, about 5 minutes.
Serve with the lemon wedges, or you can squeeze the wedges over the clams before serving.
Looking for a place to gather with girlfriends for dinner on a night out? Here are two great options when planning your next girlfriend gathering. If you’re in Narragansett, check out:
- The Coast Guard House Restaurant | In the late 1800’s, the United States Life Saving Service, now known as the US Coast Guard, built a station of solid granite perched overlooking Narragansett Bay. Today it’s home to the Coast Guard House Restaurant.
The restaurant established itself in the 1940s, and has attracted family and friends for generations. Over the past decade they have been recognized on a state and national level as a premier dining destination offering a stunning and unrivaled view of The Pier Districts’ historic Narragansett Bay, and is revered for serving locally harvested seafood.
Dining while overlooking the Narragansett Bay, I must indulge in their steamed lobster, which of course they harvest locally.
- Hemenway's Restaurant | If you’re girls-weekending in Providence, then I recommend Hemenway’s. It’s an icon in the Rhode Island food scene and the go-to destination for fresh, top-of-catch seafood.
Constantly innovating, Chef Max Peterson creates dishes that use the freshest selections from New England’s fishmongers and purveyors. Dining overlooking views of the Providence skyline adds to the ambience of a quiet dinner with My Girlfriendships® crew.
Again taking advantage of the fresh selections, my girls crew can share one of the chef’s specialties: Paella—a delicious combination of shrimp, scallops, swordfish, chorizo, clams, mussels, pimentos, English peas, and saffron rice.