I have memories of my first job making dozens of these roasted clams for service every night. The smell of them cooking is so nostalgic for me. I always like to bring that sense of nostalgia to my table while creating new memories.
For the clams: Add the clams to a large pot or large saute pan with a lid. Add 1/2 cup water and cover the pan. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat and steam until the clams open, 6 to 10 minutes. Discard any clams that do not open. Reserve 1/4 cup clam juice.
When they are cool enough to handle, remove the empty top shells of each clam and use your fingers to gently pull the clams from the bottom shell; reserve the bottom shells. Finely chop the clams and reserve.
Cook the bacon in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat until well crisp and rendered, 8 to 10 minutes.
Remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate using a slotted spoon, leaving the fat in the pan (if the pan seems dry, add a touch of oil). Add the shallots, peppers, a pinch of salt and the crushed red pepper flakes and cook until soft and starting to caramelize, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme to the pan and cook until the raw-garlic flavor is gone and the shallots are sweet, 6 to 8 minutes.
Add the oregano leaves to bloom, then deglaze with the wine and 1/4 cup reserved clam juice and cook until the mixture is reduced by about 80 percent, about 4 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the bacon and parsley to combine. Place the bacon mixture in a bowl over an ice bath, stir in the butter and clams and cool slightly until just warm. Taste the mixture and season with salt.
For the breadcrumbs: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Put the panko, crushed garlic clove and a pinch of salt in dry skillet over medium heat and toast, stirring and tossing constantly till lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Transfer the panko mixture to a bowl and stir in the extra-virgin olive oil, pepper flakes and parsley with a fork. Discard the crushed garlic clove.
Stuff each clam shell generously with about 1 tablespoon of the clam mixture and sprinkle with enough breadcrumbs to coat, pressing lightly so the breadcrumbs stick. Place the stuffed clams on a metal tray or cast-iron pan. Bake until hot and golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.
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