Wednesday, April 20, 2011


By my dad, Kevin Marrinan, as adapted from a recipe by Jackie Gallea.

Jackie Gallea, and his lovely wife Dorothy, have been friends with my parents for over forty years.  In fact, Dorothy was my mother's best friend in high school.  She married Jack, then a policeman in New York, and the couple would have my parents over frequently at their apartment. The Gallea's were/are both excellent cooks and Jackie's stuffed clams was one of his specialties. (With the surname Gallea, being of Italian descent , it makes sense that the stuffed clams resemble other recipes I've since seen for clams oreganata.) It was at one of those parties, somewhere between 1969-1971, that Jackie shared his recipe with my dad.  Dad adapted this to make it a little more dry than Jackie's original.

My immediate family prepares this every Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day without fail. We usually treat this as an appetizer to graze on all afternoon, usually in lieu of lunch.  We used to have thick clam shells that my father would stuff and bake and reuse.  After years of baking them and scrubbing them out afterwards, they started to crumble, so Dad's "stuffed clams" became "clam balls."  All the flavor with less mess!   And the leftovers are fantastic the next day.  (Mmmmm....cold clam balls for breakfast.... )

I've made these successfully for several cocktail parties.  Once, when feeling fancy, I bought fresh clams from Whole Foods rather then purchasing the canned version.  Big mistake. Fresh clams are a huge pain to clean and trim.  By the time I was finished, the pound worth of clams I had purchased was a half-pound, the other half was in the trash.  And I was kinda grossed out by a the slime.  Just use canned!

The recipe is easily adapted for dietary restrictions.  Someone isn't eating bacon?  Divide part of the mixture before making the balls and leave the bacon out.  The bacon provides a good variation in the texture in addition to the smoke flavor.  We tried substituted Morningstar soy bacon for my vegetarian husband, which worked out well.  You could also use smoked paprika to help the flavor along.  If you don't eat shellfish (like my mom) you can leave out the clams.  It's not quite as yummy or moist, but there is plenty of flavor in the rest of the mixture to make little toasty bread-balls of goodness.

As I may have mentioned in previous posts, there was not a large selection of fresh herbs at our local IGA market, so I grew up making these with dry flakes of oregano, parsley and garlic powder.   Now I prefer to use fresh herbs and garlic.

So, without further ado:

Recipe transcribed by my sister, Amy Marrinan Davidson back around 1999.  Notes in brackets are my suggestions since then.


6 slices of bread grated
(Add seasoned bread crumbs if gooey)
1 large onion chopped
2 stalks of celery
2 Tbs butter/margarine [just butter for me, thanks!]
3 thick slices of swiss cheese (chopped)
4 cans minced [and/or] chopped clams
(drain juice) [reserve at least one can of the juice  to add if the mixture is too dry.]
- salt and pepper
- oregano (dry) [or some fresh, too]
- parsley (dry) [fresh, too, please!]
- paprika
- garlic powder
- parmesan cheese [grated]
- olive oil [2 tablespoons should do it]
- [cooked] bacon (optional)
- jalepenos (optional)
[- fresh garlic (optional)]
[wedges of fresh lemon]

1. Saute onion and celery in olive oil until transparent - remove from frying pan. [cool in large mixing bowl]
2. In the same pan, melt butter then saute bread crumbs.
3. Combine all ingredients and season [I add the clams last, so I can safely keep tasting the bread-vegetable-herb mixture as I go along.  If the texture is too dry, add more clam juice, or maybe a little olive oil.  If the texture is too dry, add more breadcrumbs.]
4. Make into balls [ approximately 1 and a half inch in diameter, placed on oiled cookie sheet] - sprinkle with paprika.
5. Bake at 350  25-30 minutes or until crispy and browned.
6. Serve with fresh lemon.

Source:  Kevin Marrinan via Jackie Gallea
Date: 1969-1971
Location: New York, NY

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