"Bacon, butter, garlic, and onions top these Champagne-infused clams touched with a luscious hint of smoke."
1/4 pound bacon, minced
3/4 cup minced yellow onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 dozen Littleneck or Cherrystone clams, thoroughly rinsed and scrubbed
1/3 cup Prosecco or Champagne
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/3 cup packed freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 teaspoon Meat Mitch Competition WHOMP! Rub
1 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 lemon, cut in half
Set your smoker at 325°F and get a good smoke rolling. This will take a little extra charcoal, but it’s worth it. When the smoker is ready, place a large, high-sided, cast-iron skillet right in the coals of your fire box. Immediately add the bacon and cook until the fat has rendered, and the bacon is lightly browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. If it gets too hot, bring the skillet up to the top grate to allow it to cook with less intensity.
Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook, stirring often, until onions have softened, 3–4 minutes.
Add the clams and “bubbly,” and give the pan a quick shake. Cover the skillet with aluminum foil and cook until the clams open, about 2 or 3 minutes. If there’s a stubborn bugger in there that won’t open, throw it away. Remove the foil and bring the skillet to your worktable, making sure to have a trivet or hot pad under to protect the work surface.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shellfish to a large bowl to cool off enough to handle. Place the skillet back on the grate and reduce the liquid until about ¼ cup is left. You can tell when it gets a little thick and bubbly. Pour the liquid into a small mixing bowl and stir in the butter and all the herbs. When cool, add in the Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and season with the Meat Mitch Competition WHOMP! Rub, then set aside.
Using an oyster or butter knife (nothing sharp here), gently remove the top half of each clam shell and throw in the garbage. Loosen each piece of clam meat from the bottom halves of the shells and gently place back in the shells.
Scoop about 1 teaspoon of your bacon butter into each clam. Split any leftover evenly among the clams. Top with the panko breadcrumbs. Place each clam back into the skillet as tight as you can in one layer.
Throw some woodchips into the smoker to blast it with quick, fresh smoke, close the smoker door or lid, and bake these bad boys, uncovered, in the smoker for 20 minutes or until the tops are toasted and brown. Carefully remove the skillet and place on a hot pad. Squeeze the lemon halves all over, then serve immediately.