I pull most of my inspiration for cooking from eating out at restaurants. Sometimes I eat a dish at a restaurant that is so captivating and delicious, no matter how full I am, I purposely eat as slow as possible to savour every morsel and figure out what’s really going on in every bite. This dish from Brookyn’s Harts was one of those moments in food I’ll never forget. I’m pretty sure we had already eaten the entire menu when this beautiful plate of steaming hot clams piled high on top of thick, crusty olive oil soaked sourdough bread arrived at our table. I exclaimed moments after, and the entire weekend really, that the clams on toast was my new favourite dish and I deliberately set out to recreate it once home. Luckily, I didn’t have to search far for the recipe as Bon Appetit covered a story on this dish (they agreed it was one to write home about). As one of my favourite things I’ve eaten this year, here is my adapted version for you to now make at home.
This is a great alternative to pasta vongole and a real treat to eat when clams are fresh. Make sure when you buy your clams to rinse them very well under cold running water (they tend to hold lots of sand and grit!). Place them in a clean bowl covered with damp paper towel at the back or coolest part of your fridge until ready to use!
Loosely adapted from Bon Appetit
Serves 2 as a Main, 4 as an Appetizer
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
1 cup pancetta (Italian bacon), finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, 2 thinly sliced, 1 halved
½ medium sweet onion, finely chopped
½ fennel bulb, finely diced
2 wide 3-inch strips lemon zest
1 teaspoon chili flakes
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine
2 1½-inch-thick slices sourdough boule bread
1 pound Manila or littleneck clams
¼ cup parsley leaves with tender stems, roughly chopped
1 Tbsp butter
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until brown and crisp, 5–7 minutes. Add sliced garlic and cook, stirring often, until garlic is golden around the edges, about 1 minute. Reduce heat to medium-low and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil, chopped sweet onion and chopped fennel. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and onion is translucent, 6–8 minutes.
Add lemon zest, bay leaf, chili flakes, white wine and a pinch of salt. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until wine is mostly reduced but mixture is still a little bit saucy, about 3 minutes.
Add clams and cover with a tight fitting lid. Increase to high heat and gently shake the pan to distribute the clams. Cook for 5-7 minutes, gently shaking the pan every couple minutes, until the shells have opened (discard unopened ones).
Meanwhile, while the clams are cooking, heat a pan with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Toast the bread on each side until golden, remove and rub with the cut side of the garlic. Place the bread on a rimmed serving plate.
When the clams are cooked, add the chopped parsley and butter, gently stiring to combine. Discard the bay and lemon strips. Scoop the clams on top of the toast, along with all the vegetables and juices. Drizzle with good olive oil and season with sea salt and black pepper.