This is a red style of clam chowder, very classic!
Manhattan clam chowder has always been one of my favorite soups. When I was a kid, I had always loved my mom’s version of New England clam chowder. As I became a teen and took one of the prerequisite Home Economics classes offered to girls back in those days, at some point I had made Minestrone soup and I was in love. But Mom never really made that. In the coming years, when I found out what the Manhattan style clam chowder was, I loved it even more. It seemed the best of two worlds to me: a marriage between NE Clam Chowder and something skin to Minestrone.
The ingredients list on this may look long, but it’s not really that big of a deal. I do list canned baby clams which makes things a whole lot easier. I know many people will only use freshly shucked clams and I think that’s great if you have them. Go ahead and weigh them out to the quantity called for (minus the shells). But if like me, you have ever visited your fishmonger hoping for clams and found them to be a bit more than suspect, the canned do make a good substitute. Not to mention that you don’t have to shuck them. Well, if your fishmonger will shuck them for you, let him do it and give him a tip!
The flavoring base in the has the classic French mirepoix of carrots, celery and onion which is a bedrock on which to build flavor. To that is added chopped leek. The thing about leeks is that you need to cut the leaves apart and soak and rinse them well until you like the taste of sand and grit. But that is not hard to do and you should really wash all your vegetables anyway, to prevent e coli bacteria, not to mention grit. And if you like going to farmers who sell organic foods, it also keeps the incidence of unwanted protein down. 😉
The rest of the recipe is pretty pedestrian. If you like using fresh herbs and have them, always use three times as much fresh herb as you would dried, except in the case of bay leaves which are used 1:1 fresh or dry.
I do grow a bay tree to harvest my own leaves. I have had the tree which I have grown from a start that I purchased at a local nursery for about 20 years now. It has grown from about 6 inches to about ten feet, and only stops there because I keep cutting it back. Since growing my own bay, I noticed how faded and unappealing most bay leaves look in the store. Good fresh dried bay leaves should be a dark olive green. Another thing about bay that I had read some time back was that you shouldn’t use the ground bay because the leaves are indigestible. Which is why one always removed the bay leaves when the food is finished cooking and discards them. I do see ground and crushed bay in the stores but I am not so sure it is good for the health of a person, so I don’t use them.
Marjoram is a less common herb although many grow it in the garden, and it is readily available in the market. I just don’t see it in a lot of recipes. It is quite like oregano, if a little less assertive as oregano. If you don’t use marjoram, you might consider using oregano, but maybe using only half the amount called for.
Something else about fresh to dried herbs, which while it doesn’t apply to the herbs in this dish, I do want to mention because I said to use one part dried herb to three parts fresh herb. I don’t think substituting dried for fresh works in every case, specifically with herbs such as basil or coriander (cilantro), which have a very different character dried as when they are fresh. In those cases, I don’t substitute one for the other.
Everything else should be pretty self-explanatory in the directions. I hope you do enjoy!
Manhattan Clam Chowder
- 3 ounces diced salt pork
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup diced carrot
- 1 cup diced celery
- 1 cup diced leek (white and light green parts only)
- 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
- 1 teaspoon garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 28 ounces crushed tomatoes in juice
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon ground marjoram
- 3 russet potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 tablespoon clam base
- 3-4 cups water
- Tabasco sauce (to taste)
- Salt and black pepper (to taste)
- 13-20 ounces whole canned baby clams (2-3 cans)
- Render out fat from salt pork in a dutch oven or soup pot and drain off all but about 1-2 tablespoons of the fat, just enough to cook the mirepoix in.
- Add the onion, celery, carrot, leek and bell pepper to the pan and saute until the vegetables are tender.
- Stir in the garlic, Worcestershire sauce, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, marjoram diced potatoes, clam base, water, Tabasco and black pepper along with the drained juice from the cans of clams. Do NOT add the clams or salt just yet.
- Bring soup to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes cook and become tender.
- Add the clams to the soup and then taste to see how much salt it needs. Heat just enough at this point to warm the clams. If you boil them, they will become tough and rubbery.
- Serve hot with crackers, if desired.
Yield: about 15 small servings
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