Hors d’oeuvres are generally regarded as the initial taste foray on an evening’s culinary journey. They can be used to check hunger’s urgency or to stimulate appetites. This fresh approach achieves both causes with flair, as each satiating shell-full of subtle flavors and textures induces one to try another. Our chewy, nutty brown rice absorbs the ginger flavors in which it is cooked, and is roasted for a slight crunch. It’s then blended with clams, spinach, butter sautéed mushrooms, and just enough smoky bacon to carry one’s imagination to a memorable driftwood beach fire, where it could best be enjoyed. This very lovely and savory appetizer is an appealing and tempting way to begin an evening, especially accompanied with a light, crisp white or sparkling wine, or ginger ale.
½ cup Ecogrown Beulah Land Tan, Beulah Land Medley, or Missimati Bayou Bouquet Fragrant Brown Rice
1 tbsp ginger, fresh minced
1 cup quality ginger ale (Reed’s is a favorite)
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp Old Bay Seasoning
3 slices fine smoked bacon (Benton’s Smokey Mountain is distinguished in purpose)
5 ounces baby spinach, finely chopped
1 tbsp tarragon, finely chopped
1 tbsp Pernod
2 tbsp butter
1 cup freshly chopped seasonal mushrooms
About 25 littleneck clams, scrubbed
½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated finely
In medium saucepan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil and add rice, swirling in pan to coat kernels. Add ginger and ginger ale and bring to boil. Reduce to simmer, cover with tight fitting lid, and cook for 50 minutes. Remove lid, stir, and continue to simmer until all liquid evaporated (rice will cook slower due to sugar in ginger ale). When finished, stir with fork and set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When rice is cool, add 2 tbsp olive oil to pan and stir to coat all kernels. Season with Old Bay and stir to mix. Spray baking sheet with cooking oil and spread rice on sheet in very thin layer. Bake for 15 minutes, or until rice begins to brown. Remove from oven to cool (reduce oven to 300 degrees and leave on to bake shells). When cool, break any clinging kernels apart.
In medium stockpot, bring 1 quart water to a boil. Add clams, cover with lid, and deliberately steam for 8 to 10 minutes. At this point the clams should be open; remove to plate with slotted spoon, discarding any not opened. When cool, remove clam meat, coarsely chop, and set aside. Separate clam shell halves. Set aside. Retain steaming juice for another use, such as risotto.
To make stuffing: Fry bacon in large skillet; when brown and crisp, remove to platter, reserving bacon fat. Add spinach, tarragon, and Pernod to skillet, sautéing spinach until wilted. Crumble bacon and add to skillet, sautéing for 1 minute. Move those ingredients to skillet’s side and melt butter. Add mushrooms and sauté for 3 minutes, blending with other ingredients. Add coarsely chop clams and roasted rice, blending well until each are reheated. Set aside.
Position clam shells on baking sheet. Place 1 to 1.5 tablespoons of the stuffing in each shell. Top with a smattering of grated Parmesan cheese. Bake at 300 degrees for 8 minutes, or until cheese melted. Remove to slightly cool. Enjoy!