Using larger topneck clams for this recipe gives you less smaller shells to fiddle with, and more room for delicious butter.
I had a little trouble naming this recipe. Initially, I wanted to call it Clams Casino. That’s the OG recipe concept I took most of my inspiration from. But Clams Casino has green peppers and bacon in it. My version has pancetta and skips the peppers altogether. Then I thought about going with Stuffed Clams. But, my version is less ‘stuffed’ and more ‘buttered with crunchy bits’. So, while the name may be a little basic, it sort of celebrates the simplicity of this dish: fat, briny clams swimming in divinely flavored butter, topped with crispy crunch bits for textural oomph. Now, just tell me you don’t wanna eat that!
If you’re feeling adventurous, this recipe can easily be done on the grill too, even the opening of the oysters. Just be careful not to let the butter cause any flare-ups.
Start by purging the clams. Place clams in a large bowl of cool water and leave for 20-30 minutes to expel excess sand and grit. Remove the clams one by one – pouring out the water will pour the sand back over them.
Make the seasoned butter. In a pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until golden brown, then remove it leaving the fat behind. Cook the shallots and crushed garlic in the pancetta fat until softened. Allow to cool.
Combine softened butter, pancetta, garlic, shallots, pancetta fat, salt, Worcestershire, oregano, cayenne and two tablespoons of the parsley. Mix well. You can store the butter in the fridge if made in advance.
Toast the panko crumbs by spritzing them with spray oil and then either spreading them on a baking sheet and browning them at 300f for 6-8 minutes OR toast them over medium heat in a skillet. Panko should be golden and crispy. Allow to cool, then toss with remaining parsley.
Preheat an oven to 450f. Place the clams on a sheet tray and put them in the oven for 2-3 minutes. You do not want to cook them, you just want them to open slightly. If some clams do not open, leave them another minute or two. If they are still not opening, discard and do not use. Remove the clams from the heat as soon as they are open.
Prepare the clams by prying open the shells, twisting and removing the top shell. Remove any of the hinge that falls back into the clam, then loosen the meat. Place the bottom shell onto a sheet pan, repeat until all clams are prepared.
Scoop a generous amount of seasoned butter onto each clam (I use about 1 tablespoon), then place them back into the hot oven to cook 4-5 minutes until the butter is melted.
Remove from oven and top with a generous sprinkle of the panko crumbs. Note – I have tried this by placing the crumbs on top them back into the oven – the butter tends to just make them soggy, so you get a crisper result by placing them on right before serving.