“Northwest Manhattan” Clam Chowder

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This wonderful recipe comes from Alex Quast, who is 15 years old from the Seattle, WA area. This should stir up some controversy!

I should stress at the outset that when I write, “Northwest Manhattan”, I’m not referring to Morningside Heights or the Upper West Side. I have not found conclusive evidence that broth-based chowder has any real connection to my favorite city. Instead, this concoction was a Portuguese import to Rhode Island, and New England partisans of the more traditional cream-based chowder began to call the new variation “Fulton Fish Market,” “New York,” or “Manhattan-style” chowder as an insult. While NYC is the food capital of the country, any further discussion of good chowder can safely avoid any reference to it. Even the “Oyster Bars” (Grand Central and Pearl) don’t cut it, though I admit I’ve never been to Ed’s Chowder House. In any case, this is one dish done better elsewhere on both coasts.

While I love New England-style clam chowder (the greatest interpretation of which is found at Ivar’s restaurants in Seattle), there is a tradition in my family of making Manhattan-style chowder using clams dug out of the waters right outside our doors. It was my mom’s childhood favorite, due in part to our locale. We live on the smallest and westernmost inlet of Puget Sound, Little Skookum Inlet. Even on the East Coast, many seafood houses prominently display Skookum or neighboring Hammersley Inlet clams and oysters on their menus. As noted above, the primary difference between New England and Manhattan-style chowders is that the latter is broth-based, using tomatoes to achieve a red color, and it features an Italian spice profile.

This is definitely a dish to prepare when you have a decent amount of time to devote to it, preferably on a slightly cold (and, if you’re in the Northwest, damp) day.

To celebrate the beginning of spring break, my friends and I decided to have Friday a potluck at lunch. Unfortunately, that was decided on Thursday. Back at home, I started to look through my pantry, and found that we had recently bought the ingredients for my mom’s Manhattan chowder, so I spent the better part of Thursday night preparing the recipe below, with delicious results.

The recipe below takes about two hours to prepare and makes two to three quarts of chowder. If you want to start the day by putting on some boots and getting a shovel, will be rewarded in the final result. If you’d rather let someone else work up a sweat, just ensure that your clams are as fresh as possible.

(Note: If you want to sample the best “Northwest New England” clam chowder, Ivar’s actually sells its famous chowder online — just add your own milk or cream! http://store.ivars.com/ categories/Chowders-and-Soups/
Enjoy!

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“Northwest Manhattan” Clam Chowder

3 slices bacon, diced
2 Tbs olive oil
2 Tbs minced garlic, about 6 cloves
1 large white onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
2 dried bay leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp smoked paprika
½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 lb peeled boiling potatoes (Yukon Gold, baby red), diced large
10 oz baby clam meat, whole, (straight from Puget Sound or from two 10 oz cans), drained
2 cups clam juice (from about 3 cans of clams or 1 bottle)
3 cups chicken or seafood broth
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) diced tomatoes
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ tsp fresh black pepper
Kosher salt to taste

Over medium-high heat, brown the bacon in a heavy pot until crisp, about 10 minutes.

Remove bacon, and add olive oil, garlic, onion, celery, carrot, bay leaves, oregano, cayenne pepper, and smoked paprika.

Reduce the heat to low, and sweat the vegetables until soft, about 15 minutes.

Add Worcestershire sauce, clam juice, broth, potatoes, and tomatoes.

Bring to rolling boil, and cover for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked through.

Turn heat off, and add bacon, clams, pepper, and parsley. Remove the bay leaves.
Cover for at least 5 minutes before serving.

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