Fresh Clam Pizza

This clam pizza with a side salad for dinner is a light and welcome relief after all the holiday indulgence. Fresh clams are my favorite topping for pizza. If fresh clams are not available I have given instructions for a canned clam version that is also delicious and very easy. I always make my own dough. The dough recipe is adapted from Carol Field’s book The Italian Baker.

We have owned our fair share of pizza stones. But I find it easier, if I am pressed for time, to bake my pizza in a baking sheet or jelly roll pan. When I was a child, my father made thick Sicilian-style rectangular pizza every Friday night. It was delicious and I looked forward to it each week. When I got old enough he taught me how to do it. It became my job as a teenager to make the dough and let it rise while my Dad was still at work. Then when he got home he just had to bake it. After he died my mom gave me the pizza pan he used. It is one of my most cherished pieces of kitchen equipment. I make pizza often and enjoy it partly because I am passing on a tradition my father taught me.

For Christmas this year our family acquired a Lodge cast iron pizza pan. If you like thin, crisp-crust pizza I think it works better than a pizza stone. If you use a cast iron pan, heat your pan in a cold oven to 500 degrees for half an hour. Place dough on hot pan, add topping and bake 5-6 minutes. (The instructions if you are using a jelly roll pan are below; the photo is from a pizza I baked in a jelly roll pan.)

Pizza Dough
1 Tbsp. instant yeast (I use Saf Instant)
a generous pinch of sugar
1-1/3 c. warm water
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
3-4 c. all purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. kosher salt

In a small bowl mix together yeast and sugar. Add water, stir with a whisk. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes until foamy. While the yeast is developing, in a large mixing bowl place 3 cups of flour and the salt. Stir to distribute salt. When yeast is ready, make a well in the center of the flour and add olive oil and yeast. Mix with a spoon to form a sticky mass and begin kneading. Turn onto a floured surface and add 1/4 cup of flour. Bring dough together even if it is still sticky, then let rest 5 minutes untouched so the gluten can develop. Add 1/4 c. more flour to the dough and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. (You may need 1/4 c. more flour to keep dough from sticking.) Place 2 tsp. olive oil in the bottom of a large bowl. Add dough and turn dough to coat slightly with oil. Wrap bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place 1-1/2 hours until it has doubled. The dough is enough to make one (1-inch thick) jelly roll-size pizza or 3 (10-inch) round thin pizzas.

Clam Topping
1 lb. Manila clams, scrubbed
4 large cloves garlic (slice 2 cloves, finely mince 2 cloves)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/2 c. white wine
2 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1/4 tsp. dried Greek oregano
2 tsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese and grated whole milk mozzarella to taste

In a 4-quart stockpot warm 1/4 c. olive oil and add 2 cloves sliced garlic. Sauté until soft but not brown, about 1 minute. Add clams and wine. Cover and let cook 5-10 minutes until clams have opened. Discard any closed clams, which are dead. Using a slotted spoon remove remaining clams to a cutting board and continue cooking liquid until it is reduced by half. Remove clams from the shell and cut into halves, then set aside. Heat remaining olive oil in a small frying pan, then add 2 cloves finely-minced garlic and let cook 1 minute to soften garlic (but don’t brown). Set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a jelly roll pan to keep dough from sticking. Spread dough onto the jelly roll pan. Dimple the dough slightly. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until dough is light golden on the bottom and dough is cooked through. Remove dough from oven. Brush some of the reduced clam liquor over dough. Then brush the garlic and olive oil over dough and sprinkle with clams. Top clams with parsley, oregano, and cheese. Return to the oven for 5 minutes to heat topping through. Serves 4.

Canned Clam Topping
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 (4 oz.) cans minced clams
3 large cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2-1 tsp. dried Greek oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp. finely chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
1 tsp. freshly grated Parmesan and/or 1 Tbsp. of shredded mozzarella

Heat olive oil in a saucepan. Add garlic to soften but not brown, 1 minute. Drain half the juice from one can of clams and add the canned clams to the olive oil. Add the second can of clams with all of the juice. Add oregano and salt and pepper. Add 1 Tbsp. of the chopped parsley. Simmer for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Pre-bake the crust 10-12 minutes until crust is firm and begins to get golden. Remove crust from the oven. Pour all the clam mixture onto crust, spreading it evenly with a spoon. Add cheese and top with remaining parsley. Bake 5-7 minutes until cheese has melted.

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