Ever thought of opening fresh oysters and clams using the microwave? It couldn't be easier. And if you add a quick topper--a dab of anchovy paste, a few bacon crumbles, a teaspoon or two of mayonnaise sauce--you can create such classics as Clams Casino and Oysters Remick in no time.
For best results, choose oysters or clams of uniform size and don't crowd them. It is better to cook two or three batches than to risk overcooking these delicate shellfish. But first, a few preliminaries.
TO CLEAN OYSTERS AND CLAMS
Oysters need only good scrubbing in cool water. But clams must also be purged of grit: Place scrubbed clams in large, deep enamel kettle and cover with cold salted water (1 tablespoon salt per quart water). Toss in a handful of cornmeal, set, uncovered, in cool spot and let stand 1 hour. Rinse clams and discard any that are open or don't "clam up" when thumped.
TO OPEN OYSTERS AND CLAMS
--If oysters or clams aren't icy cold, quick-chill 1 hour in freezer. Working with 6 small clams or 6 medium-sized oysters at time, arrange in circle, hinged edges to outside, in glass ovenware pie plate. Do not cover.
--Microwave on HIGH (100% power), allowing 50 to 60 seconds for 6 (1 1/2- to 2-inch) littleneck clams, 1 to 1 1/2 minutes for 6 (2- to 2 1/2-inch) cherrystones and 1 to 2 minutes for 6 (2- to 3-inch) oysters. Remove from oven instant you see an almost imperceptible lifting of top shells.
--Set at once in bed of crushed ice to prevent further cooking, then microwave any remaining unopened clams or oysters on HIGH in 30-second increments, watching carefully. Discard any that don't open.
Note: You may need to use clam or oyster knife to finish opening, but taking mollusks from microwave when they first quiver is surest way to have them raw. Besides, opening is snap compared to Herculean task of shucking them old way.
--Discard top shells and release "meat" with sharp knife from bottom shells. Remove any grit or bits of shell, working over bowl to catch juices. Strain juices through cheesecloth-lined fine sieve and reserve.
TO SERVE CLAMS OR OYSTERS ON HALF SHELL
Return clams or oysters to bottom shells, top with reserved juices, then for each portion, bed 6 in crushed ice and garnish with lemon wedges.
24 (2-inch) littleneck clams, on half shell
2 tablespoons anchovy paste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons minced pimiento
1/4 cup sweet pickle relish
1/4 cup minced crisply cooked bacon
Arrange 12 clams in circle on each of 2 microwave-safe platters, steadying as needed by tucking crumpled wax paper under shells. Top each clam with 1/4 teaspoon anchovy paste, 1/4 teaspoon butter, 1/4 teaspoon pimiento, 1/2 teaspoon pickle relish and 1/2 teaspoon bacon.
Cover with paper towels and microwave, 1 platter at time, on MEDIUM (50% power) 1 1/4 to 2 minutes, rotating platter 180 degrees after 1 minute. Makes 4 first course servings.
24 medium-sized oysters, on half shell
3/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons chili sauce
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 to 3 drops hot pepper sauce
1/4 cup minced crisply cooked bacon
Arrange 12 oysters in circle on each of 2 microwave-safe platters.
Combine mayonnaise, chili sauce, mustard, lemon juice and hot pepper sauce in microwave-safe bowl and microwave, uncovered, on MEDIUM-LOW (30% power) 1 3/4 to 2 minutes until lukewarm, stirring after 1 minute.
Cover each oyster with heaping teaspoon mayonnaise mixture and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon bacon. Microwave, uncovered, 1 platter at time, on MEDIUM-LOW 2 minutes until warm, rotating platter 180 degrees at half time. Makes 4 servings.