This spicy clam recipe is a frequent addition to the menu of the Feast of the Seven Fishes enjoyed by chefs Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli and their families every year on Christmas Eve. The couple behind New York’s acclaimed Don Angie restaurant and authors of recently released Italian American cookbook, the two chefs put a respectful contemporary spin on some of our beloved Italian classics. This dish, featuring littleneck clams roasted with hot sauce and garlicky, oregano-infused bread crumbs, is not to be missed. They write:
This is our riff on clams oreganata, made spicy and named after our beloved Frank’s hot sauce. You see all kinds of ingredients prepared “oreganata” style in Italian-American cuisine: Our grandmothers applied it to artichokes, and fish and shrimp often get the treatment, too, but clams are tops as far as we’re concerned. The key ingredients are, unsurprisingly, oregano, along with garlic, bread crumbs, and parmesan. It’s one of our favorite dishes to order at a red-sauce joint to start the meal, and we always include it in our Feast of the Seven Fishes dinner, served with a buttery sauce and fresh herbs to complement the spiciness. We like Frank’s hot sauce because it has a straightforward tangy cayenne flavor, and a vinegary sharpness that pairs well with seafood. Plus, it gives the baked clams a vibrant red color. Feel free to try other hot sauces, though, and if you can’t find littleneck clams, this also works with Manilas and cherrystones.
Spicy Baked Clams Francesco
- 25 littleneck clams
- 2½ tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 large garlic cloves, grated on a Microplane
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1¼ cups panko bread crumbs
- ¼ teaspoon sugar
- 2 tablespoons cayenne style hot sauce, such as Frank’s Red Hot
- 1½ teaspoons sriracha sauce
- ¼ cup chicken stock, unsalted store-bought or homemade
- ½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 lemons, cut into wedges, for serving
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
- 1 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 1 cup chicken stock, unsalted store-bought or homemade
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon plus
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- ⅔ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 1 cup (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cubed
- 3 tablespoons chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons chopped dill
Prepare the clams: Place the clams in a large bowl of cold water and let sit for 20 to 30 minutes to purge any sand from them. If any shells are open, lightly tap them on the side of the bowl. If they do not close in response to the tapping, discard them, as this means they are dead. Rinse the clams with cold water and drain them in a colander. Store in the refrigerator until ready to shuck.
In a large sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the grated garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook briefly, stirring often, until the garlic is fragrant and toasted, about 1 minute.
Transfer the garlic mixture to a medium bowl and add the panko, sugar, hot sauce, sriracha, chicken stock, parmesan, and olive oil. Using a spatula, gently mix to combine, carefully folding the ingredients together in a cutting motion until they resemble coarse wet sand (do not overmix or it will become too gummy).
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Trim a piece of foil to the same size as a sheet pan and crinkle it gently with your fingers to create little ridges for the clams to balance on.
Shuck the clams and discard the top shells. Reserve the liquor (you should have about 1 cup). Arrange the clams across the sheet pan. Form a heaping tablespoon of the panko mixture into a ball, then flatten it with your fingers before placing on top of each clam.
Make the sauce: In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook, stirring often, until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until its volume is reduced by half, about 1 minute. Add the chicken stock and reserved clam liquor (if you didn’t yield a full cup, make up the difference with chicken stock), salt, sugar, and lemon juice. Bring to a boil and reduce by half, about 3 minutes.
Transfer the liquid to a blender. Open the steam vent in the lid but cover with a kitchen towel to avoid any hot splatter. Add the parmesan and butter and blend on high until incorporated. You should have about 2 cups of sauce.
Bake the clams until the breaded tops are golden around the edges, about 4 minutes. Makes 25 clams.
Reprinted with permission from Italian American. Copyright © 2021 by Angie Rito & Scott Tacinelli with Jamie Feldmar. Photography © 2021 Copyright by Christopher Testani. Published by Clarkson Potter/Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House.