This satisfying combination of crispy fried bread mounded with spoonfuls of saucy clams, mussels, and pancetta is a variation on a signature dish at Hart’s in Bed-Stuy. Chefs Nick Perkins and Katie Jackson say you can cook the onion and fennel mixture in advance, let it cool, and store it, then fire it back up and continue the remaining steps of the recipe when you’re ready to serve. Use a rimmed plate or shallow bowl to capture all the juices.
To purge clams, a step that removes any residual sand inside them, submerge them in cold water seasoned generously with salt and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.
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What You Will Need
- 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus more for drizzling
- 4 oz. pancetta, finely chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, 4 thinly sliced, 4 left whole
- 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped
- 1 small fennel bulb, finely chopped, plus ½ cup fennel fronds
- Four 3-inch-long strips of lemon zest
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp. ground fennel seed
- 2 cups dry white wine, divided
- Four 1 ½-inch-thick slices sourdough bread, halved crosswise to make 8 pieces total
- 1 lb. Manila clams, littleneck clams, or cockles, cleaned and purged
- 1 lb. mussels, cleaned
- 1⁄2 cup Italian parsley leaves and some tender stems
- Red pepper flakes, for serving
In a large, high-sided skillet over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until browned and crispy, 5–7 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and cook, stirring often, until lightly golden around the edges, about 1 minute. Lower the heat to medium-low and add the sweet onion and chopped fennel; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and the onion is translucent, 6–8 minutes. Add the lemon zest, bay leaf, ground fennel, 1 cup of the wine and a pinch of salt. Raise the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is mostly reduced but the mixture is still a little bit saucy, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture (we call it a soffritto) to a medium bowl, discarding the lemon zest and bay leaf.
Set a paper-towel-lined plate next to the stove. Wipe out the skillet and return it to medium heat. Add about 2 tablespoons of the oil to the pan; once hot, add half of the bread slices in a single layer. Cook, turning as needed until golden brown on both sides, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the slices to paper towels to drain. Repeat with the remaining slices, adding up to 2 more tablespoons olive oil as needed. Cut 2 garlic cloves in half and rub one side of the finished toasts with a cut side of garlic.
Crush the remaining 2 garlic cloves with the side of a chef’s knife. Wipe out skillet and return it to medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil and the garlic cloves and cook, stirring often, until the garlic begins to turn golden, about 1 minute. Add the clams and mussels, soffritto, and remaining 1 cup wine. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the liquid to a boil. Let cook, uncovered, until liquid is reduced by about half and clams are open (discard any that do not open), 5–7 minutes. Add the parsley and fennel fronds and cook for 1 minute more Taste and add more salt if needed.
To serve, place the prepared bread slices on rimmed plates, in shallow bowls, or on a platter and spoon the clam mixture and its cooking broth over the top. Drizzle with oil to finish, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.