Friday, February 12, 2010

Manhattan Clam Chowder

  I spent 4 years tasting Manhattan Clam Chowder at restaurants across the US, asking each chef if they had a special ingredient. This is the wonderful soup that evolved from my quest to satisfy the rich tomatoey soup my dear hubby was seeking. This aromatic soup is dairy free, making it a favorite of mine and my husband!

Now you can easily throw all the ingredients into a crockpot and enjoy the results at the end of the day.... but for the incredible rich flavor, you'll want to take the time to saute and simmer it according to my directions below. I'll warn you, it takes a lot of preparation from start to finish to meld the flavors...don't let that deter you. Plan ahead and put this on your meal plan menu.  I tend to double the recipe, freeze the soup and reheat it later. And your tastebuds will love it even more reheated!  

Stovetop:  at least 3 hours start to serve
Crockpot:  about 30 min prep, and 6-10 hours cooking on low

Here's what you need:
  • 3 cans (6.5 ounces each) chopped clams, drained, juices reserved or 8 lbs. quahog or large cherrystone clams, scrubbed & rinsed, opened
  • 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch lengths
  • 2 medium onions, chopped (1 ½ cup)
  • 2 stalks celery , chopped (2 cup)
  • 1 med/lg carrot , chopped (3/4 cup)
  • 4 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme , or 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2-3 medium potatoes, peeled & chopped
  • ¾ - 1 cup red wine (a great use for 2 buck chuck cab)
  • 2 cups clam broth or bottled clam juice (left over from the canned clams)
  • 1-2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes, chopped & juices
  • ¾ teaspoon dried parsley leaves, or 1/4 cup fresh chopped
  • ½ tsp peppercorns
  • Salt
Here's how to do it:
If using fresh clams, shell and clean them. Set aside. (That takes a lot more time than I have, so I go with the canned stuff. Just saying, if you live on the coast, you might be up for the whole shucking thing. Feel free. Let me know how that works for you.)

If using a crockpot, prep all your veggies and throw the whole ingredient list into your crockpot. You should put the peppercorns and bay leaf in a spice sack (or tea ball) for easy removal.  Cook on low for 6 to 10 hours depending on the heat of your crockpot. I can't double this recipe in the crockpot; even my 6 quart isn't large enough to hold all the ingredients.

For stovetop, read on. In a large heavy pot add bacon and render until golden and crispy. Pour off all fat except 4 tablespoons. Think about it - - how can a soup be anything but fabulous when it includes crisp slices of bacon!

Chop all the veggies while sauting bacon.

Add onions, celery and carrots and cook for 10 minutes or just until vegetables are softened. Do not allow to color.

Add garlic, bay leaves, thyme and cook an additional 2 minutes.

Increase heat to high and add potatoes. 

Combine reserved clam juice (NOT the clams - - just the juice), chicken stock and red wine to equal 4 cups. I find this a great use for 2 buck chuck from Trader Joe's!  Seriously,  $2.00 a bottle!

Bring chowder to a boil, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until potatoes are tender and the broth has thickened somewhat. 

Here's where you pour yourself a glass of the good stuff and sit down for 20 minutes.

Add tomatoes - juice and all - and continue to cook for 10 to 15 minutes.
Remove the pot from the heat and add reserved clams and parsley then season with pepper and salt to your taste.

Allow chowder to sit for up to 1 hour to allow flavors to meld, then reheat slowly over low fire if necessary. Do not allow to boil.

This soup freezes well, so double up like I do and divide it into canning jars. I hope your family enjoys it as much as we do!

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