36 fresh littleneck, small cherrystone or manilla clams (2 to 2 1/2 inches)
2 cups bread crumbs, method follows
1/2 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley
1/8 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried oregano (see Note)
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 to 1 cup chicken broth
6 lemon wedges
6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
BREAD CRUMBS: Unless you make your own bread crumbs, you won't be following Rao's kitchen tradition. Use the finest quality Italian bread you can find. Allow it to dry for at least 2 days, then grate, using a handheld grater or a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Shake and push the bread crumbs through a medium strainer to get an even texture.
BAKED CLAMS: Have your fishmonger open your clams if you are not comfortable doing the job yourself. Leave the clams on the half shell and refrigerate until ready to use.
Place broiler tray on the lowest rack and preheat broiler. Combine bread crumbs, parsley, garlic, oregano, and salt and pepper. Add olive oil and toss mixture until crumbs are evenly coated. Add the broth and continue to mix until very well blended. The mixture should be quite wet.
Put approximately 1 heaping teaspoon of bread crumb mixture on each clam. Smooth over the top, making sure that the edges are sealed. Using the edge of a teaspoon, cut ridges into the topping. Pour 1/8-inch cold water into a cookie sheet with sides (to keep the clams moist while broiling) and broil for about 7 minutes or until the bread crumb topping is well browned and crisp.
Put 6 clams on each of 6 small, warm serving plates. Garnish each plate with 1 lemon wedge and parsley sprig and serve.
This dish requires a definite oregano taste, so you should sample as you add the herb, keeping in mind that dried oregano varies tremendously in intensity.
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