Machas à La Parmesana
This traditional Chilean dish couldn’t be a simpler and more convincing example of the marvelous synergy between clams and Parmesan. Although pink razor clams (machas) are traditionally used in Chile, small hard-shelled clams will work just fine too. According to Pilar Rodriguez, a Chilean food authority, from whose recipe this one is adapted, Chilean Parmesan is much milder than Italian Parmigiano-Reggiano. She suggests using a young Parmesan or another mild melting cheese, even a mozzarella. Rodriguez loves how the sweet, slightly metallic taste of the clams works with the milky essence of the cheese.
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In a small bowl, mix the wine and lemon juice; set aside.
Scrub the clamshells under running water to remove any sand. Shuck the clams: Holding a clam with a thick towel, work an oyster knife between the two shells at the exact point of the hinge. Twist the knife, pry open, and scrape out the meat into a small bowl. Reserve the shells.
Put the clam meat in a strainer and rinse again under cold running water. Drain. Rinse 24 of the deepest shells again and pat dry.
Arrange the 24 shells on a baking pan. Divide the clam meat among the shells and top each with a teaspoon of the lemon-wine mixture and a scant grating of black pepper. Put a tiny chip of butter on top, and then a sprinkle of the Parmesan, evenly divided. Bake 4 to 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the clams are just cooked through. Do not overcook or the clams will become rubbery. Serve immediately.