This is an economical and tasty side dish or starter course that uses big clams called quahogs. You can also use large cherrystone clams if quahogs are not available. This is an unbeatable combination of sausage, clam, and aromatics bound with bread. If you like stuffing, this is one of the most sublime versions I know—spicy, chewy, crispy, and satisfying.
Put the quahogs and water in a large pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook till the clams open, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on their size. Transfer them to a bowl as they open. Strain the cooking liquid through a double layer of cheesecloth or a coffee filter.
When the clams are cool enough to handle, remove the meat and roughly chop it (it should be well chopped but with plenty of chewy chunks). Break apart the clamshell halves and set aside.
In a sauté pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat, then add the onion, garlic, bell pepper, celery, and red pepper flakes (if using). Season it with a four-finger hit of salt. When the vegetables have softened, add the chorizo and chopped clams and stir to heat through, another minute or so.
Stir in two-thirds of the bread crumbs and the Ritz crackers. Stir in
Stuff 16 of the clamshell halves with the mixture, sprinkle with the Parmigiano, and place on a rimmed baking sheet.
Serve with lemon wedges and hot sauce.
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