Manhattan Clam Chowder
At the request of my buddy Guy Bower (I love being on his radio show at KNSS AM Wichita), here is a great Manhattan Clam Chowder. It is one of the all-time great lunch dishes, but really, it is hearty enough for supper, too. I use clam juice and a container of refrigerated clams here for a very easy homemade version. Just be sure to cook the potatoes separately, as the acids in the tomatoes keep the potatoes from softening properly.
With a tomato base instead of cream, Manhattan clam chowder differs from the New England version. Healthy and chunky with vegetables, it is also a very democratic soup. You might find it listed both as the “soup du jour” on the menu blackboard at the neighborhood bar and grill, and as a specialty of the house at tony seafood palaces.
- 2 large baking potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 4 bacon slices, coarsely chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 3 medium celery ribs with leaves, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 medium carrot, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1/2 cup seeded and (1/2-inch) diced green bell pepper
- 3 cups bottled clam juice
- One 28-ounce can whole tomatoes in juice, juices reserved, chopped (see Note)
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- One 1-pound container shucked clams with juice
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
- Bring a medium saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes and return to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and partially cover the saucepan. Simmer until the potatoes are barely tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp and browned, about 8 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain.
- Add the onion, celery, carrot, and green pepper to the fat in the saucepan. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the clam juice, tomatoes with their juice, thyme, and bay leaf and stir well. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and partially cover the saucepan. Simmer to blend the flavors, about 25 minutes.
- Stir in the clams and their juices with the bacon and potatoes. Cook just to heat the clams and potatoes, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Ladle into bowls and serve hot, sprinkled with parsley.
Note: Here’s a low-tech way to chop tomatoes. Pour the contents of the can into a deep bowl. Reach into the bowl and crush the tomatoes through your impeccably clean fingers until the tomatoes are broken into pieces about the size of a quarter or smaller. That’s it.
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