Serves: Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 5 strips thick-cut pepper bacon, diced
- 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 4 cups water
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 can (28 ounces) diced tomatoes (with basil, preferably)
- 1 bottle (8 ounces) clam juice
- 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
- ½ red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
- 3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2½ pounds Manila or other hard-shell clams, rinsed
- 1 pound small Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Procedures:This flavorful chowder starts with fresh clams, which I prefer to cook by sautéing rather than steaming. In a pinch, you could use three 61/2-ounce cans of minced clams with their juice or 1 pound of frozen clam meat (available in some well-stocked grocery stores) in place of the fresh clams. Russet, or Idaho baking, potatoes are not the best choice here: Waxy thin-skinned types, like Yukon Golds, hold up better. Other golden potatoes can be used, or small white or red potatoes.
- Fry the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned and crisp. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain, reserving the bacon fat in the pot.
- Add the onion to the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes, until tender and translucent. Stir in the water, carrots, celery, tomatoes (with their juice), clam juice, bell peppers, garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the carrots are tender. The liquid should just bubble gently, not boil; decrease the heat to medium-low if needed.
- While the chowder base is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add the clams and cook, stirring gently and scooping the clams into a bowl with a slotted spoon as they pop open. Discard any clams that haven't opened after 7 or 8 minutes. Pour the liquid from the skillet into the bowl with the clams and set aside until the clams are cool enough to handle. Remove the meat from the shells and let sit in the juices until needed.
- Add the potatoes to the soup and simmer for about 15 minutes, until tender. Stir in the bacon, clams with their liquid, parsley, and cayenne. Simmer gently an additional 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Season the chowder to taste with salt (which may not be needed because clam juice can be rather salty) and more cayenne, if needed.