Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Little Something, by Susan Epstein: Baked Clam Dip Loaf

A Little SomethingToday, we move to a more modern cookbook: A Little Something: More Than 150 Snacks, Appetizers, And Hors D'oeuvres For Every Craving And Occasion by Susan Epstein (William and Morrow Company, New York; 1998). Epstein has the 150+ recipes, sure, but also puts them together in menus for every kind of party, every kind of budget.

So, a cookbook from the late 90s, with party food. I don't know quite what I was expecting, but "everything old is new again" wasn't at the top of the list. And yet...the modern recipes show more than a little bit of nodding to some of the more curious mid-century recipes. Case in point:
Baked Clam Dip Loaf

Surround this impressive dip with crudités, breadsticks, and the leftover bread cubes.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

1 large (1 1/2 pounds) unsliced round sourdough or black bread
4 containers (4 ounces each) herb or garlic cream cheese spread
1 cup mayonnaise
3 cans (6 1/2 ounces) minced clams, drained
4 green onions, finely chopped
  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F.
  2. Cut a slice off the top of the bread, about 2 inches down. Reserve the lid. Remove the insides of the bread, leaving a 1-inch shell. Cut the insides into cubes, and set aside.
  3. Using an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese spread and mayonnaise until blended. Stir in the clams and onions.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the bread shell and cover with reserved lid. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil.
  5. Bake about 1 1/2 hours, until the filling is very hot and bread is crusty.
If you prefer, you can substitute canned lump crabmeat for the clams.
Ah, there we go, I remember what I was expecting: fine-quality ingredients, and a bit more froofiness when it comes to preparation. The idea that we're using canned goods and containers of pre-seasoned cheese product is a bit disappointing. How about this instead: Soften 16 ounces of cream cheese, beat until fluffy, mix in minced garlic and/or chives. Use that instead of the pre-done stuff. And, hey, I understand that canned clams are convenient. I do. You can use them. If you happen to have fresh clams about, though, promise me you'll use those.

If you're thinking of serving this at a party, I'd stay away from the crab variant option. Why? Well, hot crab dip is something you can get on nearly every bar menu, and people will wonder why there's no artichoke in your crab-and-... dip. Subvert their expectations. Embrace the retro clambakiness.

Embrace, also, the knowledge that there are lots of folks out there with shellfish allergies. Put a sign with your dish letting people know that here there be clams. Of course, if you used fresh clams, you could just garnish with a scrubbed-clean clam shell--it's pretty darned unambiguous a statement.

1 comment:

  1. Canned clams are indeed an abomination, and normally I'd agree, use the real thing. Except why waste perfectly good clams smothering them in all that bread and cheese and moosh? Looks to me like a clam recipe for people who don't actually like clams...