These are a family favorite from Aunt DeAnne and Uncle Frank Buono, who created this dish—was it way back in the ’60s? “Not sure where we got the idea or how Italian they really are,” says Aunt De. The fact is they have been a fixture at our Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes for longer than possibly everyone pictured above, my sister Carmela and cousin Lori included. Additionally, these are quite similar to stuffed clams and mussels you will find in many an Italian cooking tome and quite reminiscent of a big ol’ pile of mussels we once consumed in the summer of ‘85 on a steamy southern Italian July night in cousin Serafino Buono’s backyard garden in Carbonara, Bari. Yes, this is a simple recipe, but as is often the case, good cooking comes down to the nuanced touch of the chef. Uncle Frank explains: “I like them with the breadcrumbs a little toasted on top. Browning and burning are two different things. People need to understand that.” Wow, these are good—no doubt, you’ll happily test your gout. I hope you give them a try!
· Wash 2 lbs. small to medium Manila clams. (Usually there are 20-25 clams per pound.) Discard any broken or opened clams. Steam clams until open. Remove from heat as soon as they are open and drain immediately.
· Remove one half of shell and discard. Detach the clams from the remaining half shell and leave in the shell. Place clams on baking sheet.
· Mix together thoroughly 1/4 lb. (or one cube) butter, juice of one large lemon, and one cup bread crumbs. Aunt De uses Progresso bread crumbs, which have lots of flavor.
· Place a dollop of breadcrumb mixture on top of each clam. Place baking sheet with clams under broiler and broil until butter toping is browned and bubbling. Remove from the oven, let cool slightly (these are hot and could easily burn!), and serve straight off the baking sheet. Buon appetito!