Here is an example of steaming clams, rather than shucking them, for baking, and then using the steaming liquid in the stuffing for the recipe, or reserving it for another use. You can also make your own stuffing— actually a flavorful bed for the clams—with vegetables other than spinach and use the steaming liquid to make a sauce for the clams (see variations).
– 2 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into ¼-inch dice.
– 1 onion, finely chopped.
– 3 cloves garlic, minced and then crushed with the flat side of the knife.
– ¼ teaspoon fresh or dried thyme leaves.
– 1 cup tightly packed stemmed spinach leaves.
– 24 littleneck clams.
– ¼ cup fine dried bread crumbs.
– 3 tablespoons butter, melted.
Step 1:In a small sauté pan or skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat, stirring every minute or so, for about 12 minutes, or until it releases its fat and is lightly browned. Add the onion, garlic, and thyme and stir for about 10 minutes, or until the onion softens but does not brown. Remove from the heat.
Step 2:In a small saucepan over high heat, combine the spinach with about 2 tablespoons of water, and stir for about 2 minutes, or until the spinach wilts and is tender. Let cool and squeeze out excess liquid. Chop the spinach and reserve.
Step 3:Scrub the clams energetically so any dead ones fall apart in your hand, andrinse thoroughly. Select a pot large enough so that the clams will reach no higher than two-thirds up the sides. Pour ½ cup water into the pot, add the clams, cover, and steam over medium heat for about 12 minutes, or until all the clams open. Check every few minutes to make sure the liquid doesn’t run dry, adding a little more if needed.
Step 4:Use a spider or skimmer to transfer the clams to a bowl. Remove the clams from their shells and discard the top shells. Set the clams and the bottom shells aside separately. Carefully pour the steaming liquid into a storage container, leaving the grit behind, and reserve for another use. Or, pour it into a small clean saucepan, boil it down to 3 tablespoons, and stir it into the bacon mixture.
Step 5:Stir the spinach into the bacon mixture and season with salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture into the reserved clam shells and top with a clam. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs, and drizzle evenly with butter. Arrange the clams on a sheet pan covered with a sheet of crumpled-up aluminum foil to create a net of hollows in which you can seat the clams. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Bake the clams for about 12 minutes, or until they are heated through and the bread crumbs have browned. Serve right away.