Manhattan-Style Razor Clam Chowder

Growing up, soup usually meant opening a can of Campell’s. Their Manhattan clam chowder was my favorite. When I got out of the navy and began cooking for myself, Craig Claiborne’s Manhattan Clam Chowder was probably the second recipe I attempted – right after his chili recipe. The results were a revelation, and I never went back to Manhattan from a can.
Generous amounts of thyme, tomatoes, onions, potatoes, clams, carrots, celery, and a hint of heat from red pepper flakes keep this recipe close to the spirit of Claiborne’s, but with the addition of corn, green beans, and chard it strays from tradition, although I doubt the Portuguese immigrants who introduced this style of chowder would object. The smoked sea salt gives this soup a hearty warmth.

This recipe makes about 3 1/2 gallons.

  •  4 lbs razor clams chopped coarse
  • 1 cup clam juice (Razor clam juice is milky and will detract from the soup’s color if more is used.)
  • 6 pounds potatoes cut in 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 1/2 pounds sweet onions, chopped fine
  • approx. 3 cups collard greens or chard, leaves cut away from the main stems and chopped into approx. 2″ squares
  • 1 lb. carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb. celery, chopped
  • 1/4 pound fresh green beans, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cups sweet corn
  • 1/3 pound bacon, broiled, drained and cut into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp dried thyme
  • 3 bay leaves
  • several cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 72 ounces (4.5 lbs) diced tomatoes with liquid (fresh or canned)
  • 12 ounces tomato paste
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • smoked sea salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp pepper flakes
  • olive oil
  • water

Chopping up all these ingredients is a bit of work. After that the cooking is pretty standard. This chowder freezes well and allows for many substitutions – including substituting a white-meated fish for the clams, or adding mussels, shrimp, squid, octopus, etc.

1. Mix tomato paste and thyme with approx. three cups of water and two tablespoons of olive oil and set aside

2. Cover the bottom of a large pot with olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add the carrots and cook for a minute stirring occasionally. Add the onions and cook for two minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium and add the celery, green beans and garlic, stirring occasionally for about three minutes.

3. Add the diced tomatoes, the tomato sauce mixture, the potatoes and remaining seasonings. Add enough water to cover the potatoes and simmer until soft. If the soup seems watery, add more tomato paste. Stir occasionally. Depending on the type of potato and size of cubes, this takes 20 to 50 minutes.

4. When the potatoes are of desired softness, stir in the chard or collard greens. Continue simmering for about 2 minutes.

5. Stir in the sweet corn, the clams and the clam juice. The corn will add considerable sweetness, as will razor clams. Give it a taste to see if it needs more salt, pepper, chili flakes or thyme.

Don’t overcook. As soon as the clams and corn are heated, the chowder is ready to serve. Garnish individual servings with a very thin slice of lemon, a few strips of nori, or grated parmesan cheese and serve with a hunk of crusty, fresh-baked bread.

(For more posts on razor clams, click on the tag “razor clams” in the upper left below the photo. Or click here for New England Razor Clam Chowder.)

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