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Crispy Clam Belly Oreganato

Ingredients

For the aioli:

Juice of 1 grilled lemon (see instructions)

½ cup Duke’s mayonnaise

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and black pepper

For the clams:

3 tablespoons hot sauce (Toscano prefers Crystal or Texas Pete)

1 egg

1 cup buttermilk

Salt and black pepper

1 pint shucked steamer clams, about 2½ pounds

2 cups flour

1 teaspoon dried wild Sicilian oregano

2 cups vegetable oil

Directions

  1. Make the aioli: Place a halved fresh lemon on a hot dry sauté pan or grill pan until charred or heavily caramelized, almost burnt. In a small bowl, combine mayonnaise, zest, juice of grilled lemon, dijon, and garlic. Mix ingredients evenly and season to taste with salt and black pepper.
  2. Make the clams: In a medium bowl, combine hot sauce, egg, buttermilk, salt, and pepper. Mix thoroughly. Stir in clams. On a large, flat dish, such as a dinner plate, sift together flour, salt, black pepper, and oregano. Add clams and toss to coat well. Shake off excess flour.
  3. In a deep skillet, heat oil to 350 degrees. Add about a quarter of the clams and cook, stirring, so that they brown evenly, about 2 minutes. As the clams brown and become crisp, use a slotted spoon to scoop them onto paper towels. Add another batch of clams. Continue cooking until all the clams are crisp and browned. Serve clams on a platter with a sprinkle of oregano and bowl of charred lemon aioli.
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