Sunday, August 8, 2010

Manhattan Clam Chowder Rules!

It has been my experience that one either thinks of oneself as a Manhattan clam chowder person or a New England clam chowder person.  It is rare to meet someone with equal admiration for both.  Sure, a curious mind may be drawn to "taste the other side", but one's allegiance usually brings them right back.
But how is it determined?   I was thinking it is much like the nature vs. nurture debate.  Are we born  "tabula rasa" and our experiences determine what we become?  Or are we genetically predisposed, a product of our ancestors? taste, just a matter of taste....????
I grew up on Long Island, 20 miles from Manhattan.  Both my parents were raised in NYC.   My mom always made Manhattan clam chowder. I don't know of anything else.   My mom did not always write her recipes down.  This is pretty darn close to her recipe. 

Mom's Manhattan Clam Chowder

18 clams, scrubbed and rinsed
5 slices of bacon, minced
1 cup chopped red onion
1 cup diced carrot
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup diced  bell pepper
3 cloves minced garlic
2 bay leaves
4 cups of cubed small red potatoes, leave skin on
1 28 ounce can chopped whole tomatoes
1 bottle (8 ounces) clam broth
1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
fresh ground pepper

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a large stockpot.  Add clams, cover and cook for 10- 15 minutes, stirring once until clams are opened.  Remove clams with tongs and allow to cool.  Strain broth through a fine mesh sieve lined with a triple layer of cheesecloth. Repeat this process three times.  ( Twice may be enough, I just really hate sand and grit in my soup)

When clams are cool, remove from shells and chop into small pieces.  Set aside.

Heat a large pot, add bacon and cook until crispy.  Remove all but 3 tablespoons of fat.  Add onion, celery, carrots and pepper.  Cook on medium-low heat until vegetables are soft, but not browned.  Add garlic, oregano, thyme, red pepper flakes and bay leaves .  Cook another 2 minutes until fragrant.  Add potatoes, bottled clam broth and fresh clam broth.  Cover and cook about 20 minutes on high.  Add tomatoes and juices and cook for another 20 minutes.  Add clams, parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Heat for no more than 5 minutes. DO NOT BOIL once clams are added.

Clam chowder always tastes best the second day.  This makes about 4 quarts of chowder.  Reheat chowder slowly, do not bring to a boil.  Serve with oyster crackers.  You may want to freeze a quart for a rainy day.

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