Here’s a mighty tasty recipe. This is one of those appetizers that people don’t think of making very often, mostly because they cringe when they think of having to shuck clams to make it. Actually, you don’t have to do any of that. In most supermarkets, you can purchase chopped clams in their broth. These are usually somewhere in front of the fish section in cold case. Or you can visit a seafood store and purchase them. Or, you can simply buy the snows chopped clams in the can. They work perfectly fine for this recipe. (Or, if you like the labor, you can buy clams and shuck them yourself.)
You can also go online and purchase clam shells for this recipe. These are durable, oven-resistant, dishwasher-safe, reusable clam shells that are made specifically for this purpose. Here’s a link to a good online source called Legendary Shells.
It says that the Pancetta or bacon is optional, but I wouldn’t leave it out. It adds great depth of flavor, particularly since the recipe calls for sage. People often ask me what the difference is between Pancetta and regular bacon. Pancetta is often called Italian bacon, and is essentially bacon without the smoky flavor, so it just depends upon which you prefer.
2.5 cups chopped clam meat (retain the clam juice)
Retained clam juice (if you are working with whole, fresh clams, purchase a bottle of Snow’s Clam Juice)
6 clam shells (for cooking; see note above)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups Italian style bread crumbs
1 tbsp dried broken-leaf sage
Kosher salt (to taste)
Fresh-ground black pepper (to taste)
Crushed red pepper flakes (to taste)
3 tbsp cold butter
1/2 cup chopped Pancetta or bacon, chopped and cooked until crispy (optional, but not really)
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.
If you’re working with whole clams, you can chop them by hand or use a food processor.
Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, peppers and garlic and cook for about 8 minutes. Stir frequently so that the garlic does not burn.
Remove from heat and transfer everything to a bowl. Allow it to cool a bit. Then, add your bread crumbs, sage, salt and pepper (sparingly), red pepper flakes, and clams.
Whisk the egg with the retained clam juice. Add it to the dry ingredients and mix gently. If you are adding the Pancetta or bacon (and I strongly suggest you do), now is the time to add that to the mixture. If the mixture appears dry (and it probably will not with the addition of the meat), here’s where that bottle of Snow’s clam juice comes in handy.
Fill the shells with the clam mixture, and place a chunk of butter on the top of each one.
Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.
My friend Bill says to serve this with lemon wedges and cold beer. Wine works too, if you’re not a beer drinker (like me).