Baked Clams with Oregano
A perfect small plate for a glass of white or sparkling wine. What makes the dish special is texture: the crunchiness of the toasted breadcrumbs atop the slightly chewy clams. Fresh breadcrumbs are key to this recipe; don’t substitute the canned variety.
2 cups diced coarse country bread, crusts removed
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, or extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds small clams (about 20 clams)
½ cup dry white wine
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
Lemon wedges for serving
Make the Toasted Bread Crumbs:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Pulse the bread cubes in a food processor until you have fine crumbs. Spread the bread crumbs on a sheet pan. Drizzle evenly with the butter or oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss well to coat. Bake, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and measure out 1 cup of the crumbs. Reserve any leftover crumbs for another use. Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees, or preheat the broiler.
Combine the clams and wine in a large sauté pan. Cover, place over high heat, and steam, shaking the pan a few times, until the clams open, just a couple of minutes. They should barely crack open. Do not overcook. Using a slotted utensil, transfer the clams, draining them well over the pan, to a sheet pan. Discard any that failed to open.
Pour the liquid in the pan through a cheesecloth-lined sieve (or paper coffee filter) placed over a bowl. Discard the top shell from each clam and, using a small knife, detach the clam from the bottom shell, leaving it resting in the shell. Divide the clams among 4 gratin dishes, overlapping them a bit to keep them from tipping over. (Use flameproof dishes if broiling.) Drizzle evenly with the strained clam liquid.
In a small bowl, stir together the 1 cup bread crumbs, garlic, parsley, and oregano. Sprinkle an equal amount of the crumb mixture over each clam. Top each clam with a few grindings of pepper, and drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil.
Bake or broil until the crumbs are golden, 3 or 4 minutes. Serve immediately with the lemon wedges.