Manhattan Clam Chowder

5 cups water
3 dozen chowder (quahog) or cherrystone clams, scrubbed
5 slices bacon, finely chopped
1 large onion (12 ounces), finely chopped
2 large carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
1 pound all-purpose potatoes (3 medium), peeled and finely chopped
1/2 bay leaf
1-1/4 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
3/4 teaspoon salt

In nonreactive 8-quart saucepot, heat 1 cup water to boiling over high heat. Add clams; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until clams open, 5 to 10 minutes, transferring clams to bowl as they open. Discard any clams that have not opened.

When cool enough to handle, remove clams from shells and coarsely chop. Discard shells. Strain clam broth through sieve lined with paper towels into bowl.

In same clean saucepot, cook baon over medium heat until browned; add onion and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add carrots and celery; cook 5 minutes.

Add clam broth to bacon mixture in saucepot. Add potatoes, remaining 4 cups water, bay leaf, thyme, and pepper; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add tomatoes with their liquid, breaking them up with side of spoon. Simmer 10 minutes longer.

Stir in chopped clams and heat through. Discard bay leaf and sprinkle with parsley. Taste for seasoning; add salt as needed.

Yield: about 12 cups or 12 first-course servings

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