Manhattan Clam Chowder
I was highly impressed by this beautiful Cooks Illustrated recipe for Manhattan clam chowder... beautiful results, with a light, clean, mildly spicy tomato flavor. For those unfamiliar with Manhattan style clam chowder, the broth is not cream thickened. It's a little like a cioppino broth.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
Medium-sized hard-shell clams provide the flavor for the broth and the tender clam meat for this hearty soup. This rendition is not like the traditional commercial offerings with a thick broth that resembles tomato sauce. Instead, the broth is briny and clean tasting, flavors from the sea standing out and tomatoes and vegetables offering dimension in flavors and colors. The potatoes provide substance, and cooking them before adding the tomatoes enables their starch to be released into the broth, lightly thickening it. This soup will hold for two days. Reheat over a low flame, being sure not to boil the chowder, which will toughen the clams.
8 pounds clams , medium-sized hard-shell clams, such as cherrystones, washed and scrubbed clean
2 slices thick-cut bacon (about 2 ounces), cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 large Spanish onion , chopped small
1 small red bell pepper , stemmed, seeded, and chopped small
1 medium carrot , chopped small
1 stalk celery , chopped small
4 medium garlic cloves , minced
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 (8-ounce) bottle clam juice
1 1/4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes , peeled and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 large bay leaf
2 (14.5-ounce) cans diced tomatoes
Salt and ground black pepper
2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves , chopped
1. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in large stockpot or Dutch oven. Add the clams and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Cook for 5 minutes, uncover, and stir with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot and steam until the clams just open, 2 to 4 minutes. Transfer the clams to a large bowl; cool slightly. Open the clams with a paring knife, holding the clams over a bowl to catch any juices. With the knife, sever the muscle that attaches the clambelly to the shell and transfer the meat to the cutting board. Discard the shells. Cut the clams into 1/2-inch dice; set aside. Pour the clam broth into a 2-quart Pyrex measuring cup, holding back the last few tablespoons of broth in case of sediment; set the clam broth aside. (you should have 5 cups; if not, add water to make this amount. Rinse and dry the pot, then return it to the burner.
2. Fry the bacon in the empty pot over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, pepper, carrot, and celery, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
3. Add the wine and raise heat to high. Boil the wine until it reduces by half, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the reserved clam broth, clam juice, potatoes, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot. Simmer to release potato starch, about 2 minutes.
4. Add the tomatoes, bring back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Off heat, stir in the reserved clams and season with salt and pepper to taste; discard the bay leaf. (Chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm over low heat until hot.) Stir in parsley and ladle the chowder into individual bowls. Serve immediately.
On a recent trip to St. Augustine, I was introduced to Minorcan Clam Chowder, a feature of many of the local restaurants. Somewhat similar to Manhattan, but spiced up with Datil peppers (similar to habeneras but a little less hot). Much more interesting (and more picante) than Manhattan (although being from CT I may get drummed out of the NE chowder society for liking it!). There are several recipes available online, but you may have trouble finding the datils.