White Clam Pizza Just Like Frank Pepe’s (plus 2 more)

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By R.B. Quinn and Mindy Merrell of CheaterChef.Com.

We just spent a couple of weeks in balmy southern Rhode Island where the weather is a bit more conducive to firing up the KettlePizza than super-hot Nashville (which hasn’t stopped us, actually). South County, RI, is the buckle of the clam belt extending along the coast west into Connecticut and east into Massachusetts. When landlocked folks like us get near the sea, we go seafood crazy. We did our level best to take full advantage of ocean fresh steamer clams, littleneck and cherrystone clams, clam cakes, clam stuffies, clam chowder and, of course, clam pizza from the KettlePizza oven. Okay, we’re verging on a Forrest Gump moment here.

Clam Pizza

What’s this clam pizza, you say?

Pepe's Pizza

If you’re not from New England you might not know about the legendary Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana established in 1925 in New Haven, CT. Pepe’s is famous for it’s thin crust pizza baked in coal-fired ovens. The tomato pies are excellent, but Frank’s White Clam Pizza topped simply with fresh clams, grated cheese, olive oil, fresh garlic and oregano, invented sometime in the mid 1960s, really put him in the pizza hall of fame. His restaurant was already serving Rhode Island littlenecks on the half shell, so he went the next step and put some fresh clams on a pie.

Pepe's White Clam Pizza
Check out the leopard crust from Pepe’s coal fired oven. Remind you of anything, fans of KP?

You really need to make a clam pizza in your KettlePizza at home. It’s a great addition to your KettlePizza line-up. You’ll find chopped fresh clams or pints of fresh frozen clams at your fishmonger or supermarket seafood counter. Even in Nashville we can buy pints of our Galilee, RI, frozen chopped clams and they are quite delicious. Shucking your own clams is always an option when available.

Clam Pizza
Many a Providence TSA agent has rummaged through our frozen clam containers packed in the luggage to Nashville.

In our fresh Rhode Island seafood frenzy this month we went further than Frank Pepe and made a couple of other fun clam pizza variations: the Clam Chowder Pizza and the Rhode Island Red Chowder Pizza. The cool thing about chowder pizza is that it includes thinly sliced potatoes. This may sound odd at first, but the creamy sliced potatoes act almost like soft cheese in the mix. Clam chowder is often flavored with salt pork or bacon, so we added crisp bacon and bits of spicy Rhode Island soppressata (aka “soupy”) to our pies.

Clam Chowder Pizza: the before and after shots:

White Clam Pizza

Clam Chowder Pizza

Rhode Island Red Chowder Pizza is a take-off on the fabulous Portuguese influenced chowder variation that isn’t too red like Manhattan, but does benefit from a hint of tomato, plus spicy garlicy Portuguese chourico (shoor-reese) or milder linguica (lin-gwee-sah) sausage. It’s wicked good. Luckily we can find Gaspar’s Portuguese sausages in Nashville, too.

Cheese is optional on all the clam pies. A little grated Parmesan is very nice, but not essential to the sweet briny goodness. What you really don’t want is heavy rubbery mozzarella covering up all those delicate clams.

The important thing to remember when making a clam pizza, or any KettlePizza, is not to overload it with too much of a good thing. Be sure to drain the clams well (freeze that briny clam juice for making chowder later) because you really don’t want a watery mess on your pie. Your beautiful masterpiece must slide easily from the floured peel into the mouth of your KettlePizza. This gentle slide can become a challenge with an overload of heavy wet ingredients. At 650 to 700 degrees, the quick cooking keeps the clams tender, not rubber band chewy.

Sweet corn is in peak season in New England right now, so if you have a couple of leftover cooked ears in the refrigerator put them to good use on your clam pizzas. Cut off the kernels with a sharp knife and sprinkle them over the pie before baking. But not too much!

Remember, there are lots of dough options. Make our dough or buy some from your favorite pizzeria or supermarket and make sure you’ve given it a good rest. Click HERE for an easy dough recipe, and HERE for tips on using store bought dough. No matter what dough you use, gently stretch the dough out and place in on a well-floured peel, then add toppings.

White Clam Pizza

Olive oil

Fresh garlic smashed and minced with a good pinch of coarse salt (about 1 clove per pie)

Chopped fresh clams, well-drained (about ½ cup per 8-inch pie)

A big pinch of dried oregano

Freshly ground coarse black pepper

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley

Place your stretched dough on a well-floured peel. Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the dough. Dot with the minced garlic and spread it around with your fingertips. Sprinkle the clams evenly over the crust. Sprinkle lightly with oregano. Dust with cheese, if you like. Slide the pizza into the KettlePizza, turning as needed, and cook until the crust is nicely charred. Sprinkle with black pepper and parsley and serve immediately.

Clam Chowder Pizza

Small red or white waxy potatoes (about 3 potatoes or 10 slices per 8-inch pie)

Olive oil

Chopped fresh clams, well drained (about ½ cup per 8-inch pie)

Fresh garlic smashed and minced with a good pinch of coarse salt (about 1 medium clove per 8-inch pie)

Crumbled crisply cooked chopped bacon (about 2 tablespoons per 8-inch pie)

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Freshly ground coarse black pepper

Chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, to taste

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender, but not mushy. They are ready when a sharp knife tip slides in smoothly, but the potatoes don’t break apart. Drain and cool in a colander. When cool, cut the potatoes into about ¼-inch slices.

Place your stretched dough on a well-floured peel. Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the dough. Dot with the minced garlic and spread around with your fingertips. Arrange the sliced potatoes over the top. Sprinkle the clams over the potatoes. Sprinkle on the bacon. Dust with cheese, if you like. Slide the pizza into the KettlePizza, turning as needed, and cook until the crust is nicely charred. Sprinkle with black pepper and parsley and serve immediately.

Rhode Island Red Chowder Pizza

Small red or white waxy potatoes (about 3 potatoes or 10 slices per 8-inch pie)

Olive Oil

Fresh garlic smashed and minced with a good pinch of coarse salt

Chopped fresh clams, well drained (about ½ cup per 8-inch pie)

Diced canned tomatoes, well-drained (about 3 tablespoons per 8-inch pie)

Diced cooked Portuguese chourico (or linguica for a milder pie) sausage (about 2 tablespoons per 8-inch pie)

Grated Parmesan cheese, optional

Chopped fresh flat leaf Italian parsley or cilantro

Place the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Add a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender, but not mushy. They are ready when a sharp knife tip slides in smoothly, but the potatoes don’t break apart. Drain and cool in a colander. When cool, cut the potatoes into about ¼-inch slices.

Place your stretched dough on a well-floured peel. Spread a thin layer of olive oil over the dough. Dot with the minced garlic and spread around with your fingertips. Arrange the sliced potatoes over the top. Sprinkle the clams over the potatoes. Add the diced tomato. Sprinkle on the chourico. Dust with cheese, if you like. Slide the pizza into the KettlePizza, turning as needed, and cook until the crust is nicely charred. Sprinkle with black pepper and parsley or cilantro and serve immediately.

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