Wash the clams well in cold running water and scrub the shells to remove the sand. An average chowder clam will weigh about eight ounces, a big one may weigh as much as a pound. When you get an average sized clam weighing as much as a big one, it may be dead and full of mud, and will ruin whatever it is used in. Tap it with a knife, it will sound duller than a good clam.
Cover the well washed clams with cold water to just cover Two quarts will cover the average dozen, and yield the needed 1-1/2 qt's strained. If you have it, white stock or white stock and water half and half, will make a richer chowder. Add the thyme, bay leaf and celery tops. Cover and bring to the boil. Stir the clams well. As soon as most of them are open, turn off the flame and remove them to a bowl. Leave the unopened ones in the hot stock, they will be open by the time you have finished with the open ones. Test any that do not open for mud over the sink, not the stock. Drain off the clam broth, through a strainer, leaving the last bit in the pot, along with any sand. This will remove the thyme leaves which will have flavored the broth, but look like black specks, a source of complaints. Reserve the clam broth. After it stands a while, you may find sand on the bottom. Check by repouring it into another bowl.
Remove the clams from the shells. Also remove the two round adductor muscles attached to the shells. Put them in the "tough" pile along with the lip (the thick crescent shaped part of the body) of the clams which you should remove from the clam body by jullienning it. Cut the clam bodies in 4 to 6 pieces, and hold them in a bowl of clam broth to keep them from drying out. Chop or grind the tough parts as fine as is reasonable. No amount of cooking will make them tender, but they add flavor and "clam" to the chowder. Add this to the reserved clam bodies. The cooked clam weighs 8 oz.
I prefer to use slab bacon with the rind on, but thick sliced bacon will do. (Should you have a piece of smoked bacon or ham rind, add it for flavor. Dice or julienne it, and cook it slowly, in a heavy pot, and allow it to take color well. If you don't color it well, it will come back to haunt you looking dead white. Add the diced celery, onions, carrots and green pepper, and cook them well in the fat. After they are softened, add the garlic and the crushed tomatoes. If you are using fresh plum tomatoes, cut an X in the bottom, give them a 10 second bath in boiling water, and then into ice water, and peel them, before chopping, Cook the tomatoes and garlic for 3 or four minutes.
Add the reserved sand free clam broth, and then the diced potatoes. Bring to the boil, simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add reserved chopped clams in broth, Do not boil, as it toughens the clams. Finish with some chopped parsley. This soup freezes well, so I like to double this recipe, and freeze some. Double the recipe is not double the work.
Yields 3 quarts
Serving Ideas: Saltine Crackers are needed.
Notes: Don't use Idaho type potatoes. They break up too much. Also you need not be too precise in dicing the veg and potatoes for a chowder.
Manhattan Clam Chowder is the red kind. You will also find it in Rhode Island. This chowder will not have black specks in it, as we strain the broth to remove the thyme that causes them.
© 1996, Steve K. Holzinger. All rights reserved.
This page originally published as part of the electronic Gourmet Guide between 1994 and 1998.
Copyright © 2007, Forkmedia LLC. All rights reserved.
Modified July 2007
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