Food & Drink

Pepper Jelly Braised Cedar Key Clams

Serves 6

Vietnamese via New Orleans

Mopho may not be authentic Vietnamese, but it’s 100 percent pure New Orleans. The neighborhood restaurant, which opened a few weeks ago in mid-city, is run by three Restaurant August veterans who fell in love with the immigrant-owned restaurants that crowd the city’s West Bank. “We’re a French colony, they were a French colony,” says Chef Michael Gulotta, who grew up in New Orleans and worked as John Besh’s chef de cuisine for six years. “They have brackish water, we have brackish water.” Ingredients like shellfish and pork are central in the food of both the Mississippi and Mekong Deltas. And besides, New Orleans cuisine has long been driven by the best that newcomers have to offer, whether it’s French technique or African ingredients.

“None of us are Vietnamese, so we obviously can’t make it authentic,” Gulotta says. “We have to put our spin on it. We do what we like to eat.” One dish he especially likes is Mopho’s pepper jelly braised clams, which combines bright ginger and lemongrass with the richness of lardo. How seductive is it? The chef often made this recipe at home when he was courting his wife.


  • Pepper Jelly Braised Cedar Key Clams with Lardo & Mint

    • 1/2 cup coconut oil or neutral oil

    • 2 Tbsp. fresh ginger, minced

    • 2 Tbsp. garlic, minced

    • 3 Tbsp. shallots, minced

    • 2 tsp. Thai chili paste

    • 84 clams, rinsed well under cold running water to remove grit

    • 2 cups white wine

    • 2 cups sweet cooking mirin

    • 1/2 stalk lemongrass, crushed

    • 2 cups coconut milk

    • 3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

    • 2 cups pepper jelly, divided

    • Juice and zest of 1 lime

    • 10 mint leaves, torn

    • Salt, to taste

    • 12 strips shaved lardo or substitute crispy bacon, to garnish

    • 1 cup fried shallot rings, for garnish (recipe below or may be purchased in many Asian markets)

    • Fresh mint leaves, for garnish

  • Crispy Fried Shallots

    • Canola oil

    • 3 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced

    • Salt, to taste


  1. Heat coconut oil in a large braising pan set over medium-high. Lightly toast the ginger, garlic, shallots, and Thai chili paste. When the aromatics become golden brown, add the rinsed clams followed by the white wine, mirin, and lemongrass stalk. Cover the pan and simmer until the clams open, about seven minutes.

  2. Once clams have opened, remove the lid and add coconut milk, butter, and 1 cup of the pepper jelly. Simmer the clams for an additional minute and then add lime juice, zest, and mint leaves. Season with salt to taste.

  3. To serve, remove the crushed lemongrass stalk and portion the clams and broth into 6 warmed bowls.

  4. Garnish with shaved lardo, crispy shallots, fresh mint leaves, and a few dollops of the remaining pepper jelly. Serve with warm crusty bread for dipping.

  5. For the Crispy Fried Shallots:

    Heat 2 inches of canola oil in a small pot until a candy thermometer reads 345˚F degrees.

  6. Rinse shallot rings lightly with water and pat dry with paper towels. Carefully drop them into the oil and stir with a slotted spoon so they fry evenly. Once they are golden brown, about 3 minutes, remove rings with the slotted spoon to a paper towel-lined tray. Season hot shallots with salt and reserve in a dry place.

Recipe from chef Michael Gulotta of Mopho in New Orleans, Louisiana.