Pops Ro is my dad, it's a nickname that one of my brother's neighborhood friends gave him when we were all kids. It's a play on our last name and it sort of stuck over the years. He even has a boat that he named "Pops Ro Boat" - get it?? Haha. Well, we all thought it was pretty clever.
Anyway, since these clams are his creation and have become a family favorite over the years I'm calling them Pops Ro's Clams Casino.
Now when I say these delicious gems are a family favorite, I mean we are downright crazy about these clams. Whenever my dad agrees to make them we practically hold a friggin' family conference to decide how many per person we're going to need/want. Then when it comes time to eat them, you better only eat your allotted share because Heaven help you if you eat one more than you're supposed to. I'm pretty sure someone in my family will break your knee-caps. Seriously.
One of the first times my now husband came over to my parent's house for dinner to meet my family, we had these clams. I neglected to tell my poor husband that we very strategically divide up the clams so everyone gets an equal amount per person. Why do we do this, you may ask? There are three reasons.
1. They are delicious and if there weren't rules surely someone would gobble up as many as he or she could before the others. There have to be controls in situations such as these.
2. There is a lot of work involved in shucking and cleaning the clams so we only have them once in a while for birthdays or holiday dinners - they are a special treat. So it makes sense that everyone enjoy them equally.
3. Because we like to work on our counting skills and sometimes loudly proclaim how many clams we've eaten a la The Count on Sesame Street. In our best Transylvania accents we can be heard shouting, "One clam, two clams, three clams, FOUR CLAMS! HAHAHAHAHA!" And then a crash of thunder and flash of lightning ensues...
Anyway, back to the story. So my husband grabbed a few clams and put them on his plate. Then when he reached back in for the third time, I thought my dad was going to break his wrist.
"How many of those have you had there buddy?" he asked.
"Um, what?" Daniel responded, a little confused.
My brother and I started laughing because we knew what was coming next. The "counting clams" speech. It's all in good fun of course and has become a big joke, but still! How could I forget to tell him about this twisted family tradition?
"Well, see I buy enough clams so that everyone can have an even number. So we each know how many we can all have. I don't see you counting," Dad said.
Daniel looked liked he wanted to crawl in a clamshell himself and never come out.
"Oh sorry!" he said, beat red. "I didn't know. How many do we each get? I can count my shells."
I thought for sure this would send him for the hills thinking my family is a bunch of clam-counting nuts. Then my dad came in with the comic relief.
"I'm just kidding, Daniel!" he said and patted him on the back. Then after a round of laughter my dad said with a straight face, "But, seriously, I think you've had your number."
Like I said, don't mess with the clams.
Anyway, here's the basic recipe of what he does to make them so flavorful.
Pops Ro's Clams Casino
Have plenty of the following on hand:
fresh-squeezed lemon juice
real bacon bits (you can make your own or buy the jarred variety for ease of use)
grated romano or parmesan cheese
clams, freshly shucked and thoroughly cleaned.
To assist in cleaning your clams, you can pop them in the microwave for one to two minutes to open them up. Then with a shucking tool, you can break into those bad boys and under cold water you'll rinse them free of their "poop". I don't think it's really "poop", but that's what we always called it in my family. It's basically a black wad of sand and such inside the clam.
Once your clams are cleaned put them on a baking dish and get to work.
Top each clam with an equal amount of all your toppings. My dad likes to start with one topping first, top all the clams, and then move to the next topping. That way you don't forget any of the toppings on any clams. Yes there's a strategy.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Once all your clams are dressed to kill, pop them in. Once the bacon begins to crisp up and you start smelling the cheese and garlic, they are ready to come out. About 20-25 minutes depending on your oven. Remove and enjoy.
And don't forget to count your shells...
"One clam shell, two clam shells, three clam shells, four clam shells, five clam shells, SIX CLAM SHELLS! HAHAHAHAHAH!"