Who's Cooking: Bridget Napoli

In her Eastport kitchen Bridget Napoli shows off In her Eastport kitchen Bridget Napoli shows off her baked clams, made from fresh littlenecks. (July 6, 2013) Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

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She works for the Buildings Department in Westhampton Beach and lives in Eastport with her husband and son.

 

Are Italian dishes your specialty? I grew up in an Irish household, and I've been cooking since I was a young girl. My dad was an excellent cook, mostly meat and potatoes. He didn't like fish or seafood, so we never had it. When I got married I was introduced to a new world of fish and Italian food by my husband's family, and it was wonderful. My mother-in-law taught me a lot, and then I just experimented with different dishes, changing recipes, adding, subtracting, whatever I thought would taste good. I'm known for my puttanesca sauce. I like it hot, so I put cherry peppers in it to give it some bite.

Do you entertain a lot? My son just graduated from college, and we had a party. I made lasagna, eggplant parm, lemon chicken, mac and cheese, sausage and peppers. I had about 65 people. Weeks ahead, I started cooking and freezing trays of food, since I work and I knew I wouldn't have time to do everything at the last minute. That worked out really well. At the end of the party the food was all gone. That was a good sign.

Where does this baked clams recipe come from? My mother-in-law and father-in-law made a similar recipe. I added more grated cheese, more garlic. I like to baste the clams with some clam juice to keep them moist. I think people like them because they're whole clams, and very fresh.

Where do you buy your seafood? We go clamming in Shinnecock Bay Sometimes my husband will get 150 or 200 clams at a time. I can't imagine biting into a piece of sand. I like the smaller littlenecks, nothing huge, because you know those will be really chewy. I scrub them really well. Or If I don't get them myself, I'll buy them at a good fish market like Cor-J Seafood in Westhampton Beach or Atlantic Seafood in Center Moriches. Never at a supermarket. I always look at them before I buy them, to make sure the shells aren't open.

Any advice for preparing the clams? When you shuck them, work over a bowl to catch the juices, for the topping. And loosen the whole clam from the bottom half of the shell, so it's easy to remove and eat. And for convenience I like to use Dorot frozen garlic cubes, which I get at King Kullen or Walmart, instead of having to chop a lot of garlic. It's garlic that's crushed and frozen, and it tastes very fresh. I keep the cubes around and use them straight from the freezer.

 

Baked Clams

2 to 3 dozen Littleneck clams, scrubbed

1 cup Italian-style seasoned bread crumbs

¼ cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

3 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling

3 Dorot frozen garlic cubes or three garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley

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Lemon wedges for serving

 

1. Line a baking sheet with heavy-duty aluminum foil. Preheat the broiler.

2. Shuck the clams over a bowl to catch any clam juice, leaving clams in bottom of shells but loosening for easy eating. Discard tops of shells. Reserve ¼ cup clam juice.

3. Combine bread crumbs, cheese, 3 tablespoons olive oil, garlic, parsley and reserved ¼ cup clam juice.

Mixture will be slightly wet but not lumpy.

4. Spoon and press mixture on top of clams, covering the whole shell. Place on prepared baking sheet. Baste clams with any liquid that drips onto pan during preparation. Drizzle clams with olive oil.

5. Broil, close to the heat, until clams are golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes, checking frequently after 4 minutes to make sure they're not burning and remove them from the oven as they're done.

6. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately with lemon wedges. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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