Manhattan Clam Chowder

manhattan clam chowder-web.jpg

Serves 8-10

A satisfying and warming chowder for rainy days or when the weather begins to cool.  The addition of our Classic Spicy Tomato Sauce gives the chowder a delicious depth of flavor, not to mention a welcome hint of heat.    

 Ingredients:
1½ lbs whole clams (rinsed)
1 tablespoon butter
¼ lb bacon, salt pork or pancetta, diced
1 large onion, diced small
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 ribs of celery, washed and diced
1 medium bell pepper, diced
2 medium sized carrots, peeled and diced
3 large Yukon Gold potatoes, cubed
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 jar of Classic Spicy Tomato Sauce
Red pepper flakes (to taste)
Salt and pepper
Chopped parsley

Method:

1.     In a large heavy pot or a Dutch oven, cook clams in 4-5 cups of water over medium high heat. Cook with the cover on for about 15 minutes or until clams have all opened.  (It is important to discard any clams that don’t open after 15-20 minutes of cooking time)
2.     Remove the clams from the pot and remove most of the clams from their shells and set aside in a bowl. (Keep a handful of clams in their shells if you like—we think it makes for a more festive final presentation to have a few whole clams in the shell in each bowl of chowder.)  Strain the broth through a sieve lined with cheese cloth or doubled-up paper towel and set aside as well. 
3.     Rinse the pot and put back on the stove.  Add the butter and turn heat to medium low.  Add bacon/salt pork/pancetta, stirring occasionally.  Once the bacon has browned, remove from pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
4.     Add onions, garlic, celery, bell peppers and carrots to the pot, season with salt and pepper and cook until vegetables are soft, but not brown.  Stir frequently.  Add potatoes and continue cooking until they start to soften.  Add 4 cups of the reserved clam broth, along with the bay leaf and sprigs of thyme.
5.     Partly cover the pot and simmer gently until potatoes are tender.  Use the back of a wooden spoon to smash a few of the potatoes against the side of the pot.  The starch from the smashed bits of potato will help thicken the broth.
6.     Meanwhile, chop the clams you have removed from their shell. 
7.     When the potatoes are tender, stir in the Classic Spicy Tomato Sauce and bring the chowder back to a simmer.  Add the chopped clams, as well as any clams you may have set aside still in their shell, along with the reserved bacon, and stir to combine.  Taste and season to taste with salt and pepper.  You can also add additional red pepper flakes if you like a spicier chowder.  Bring back to a simmer and then remove from the heat.
8.     Fish out thyme sprigs and bay leaf and discard.  Let chowder rest to allow flavors to come together.  Gently reheat before serving, garnished with chopped parsley. 

Melissa Vitelli