I love a bowl of creamy New England clam chowder just as much as the next gal, but not this month. For me, January is always about cutting back, trying to make up for the onslaught of unnecessary fat and sugar consumption otherwise known as December. The healthier tomato-based version of this classic chowder seemed like the perfect remedy.
This year was better (eating-wise) than most, on account of a nasty case of bronchitis that showed up at my door in the last few days before Christmas.
Why is that a good thing, you ask? I had planned to do all my holiday baking that week, and since no one wants a plate of cookies from someone who's coughing constantly and sounds like a 70-year-old smoker, I didn't bake a thing. Well, except for one batch of Leanne's Sugar-Free Coconut Almond Bark, but I made it right before I got sick, and I ended up eating most of it myself (I was sick, don't judge me). But at least the one thing I did make was full of healthy fats and contained no added sugar!
This chowder recipe is from a cookbook based on a popular restaurant called Mother's Bistro and Bar in Portland, OR. I went there once for breakfast (we waited outside for an hour to get a table!) and loved it. It's delicious comfort food made from scratch; you can't beat that.
Besides wanting something healthy, the other reason I decided to make this soup because I had a can of baby clams in my pantry that was set to expire soon and I didn't want to waste it. I love the little kick from the Tabasco. Don't be turned off by the long ingredient list - just think of all the veggies you'll be eating! From experience I can say that this soup freezes very well.
Manhattan Clam Chowder
adapted from Mother's Best, by Lisa Schroeder
2 strips bacon, finely diced (1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large yellow onion, finely diced (1 1/2 cups)
1 large carrot, peeled and finely diced (3/4 cup)
2 ribs celery, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1 leek, white part only, thinly sliced into half moons and washed (1/2 cup)
1 medium green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and finely diced (about 1 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced (1 teaspoon)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, with juice
1 (10.75 ounce) can tomato puree
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (3 cups)
3 1/2 cups fish stock or 2 (14 ounce) cans clam juice
2 (10 ounce) cans baby clams in juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
5 dashes Tabasco sauce, or to taste
3 dashes Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
Set a large heavy soup pot or dutch oven over high heat. When hot, add the bacon. Cook over high heat until it starts to brown , then lower the heat to medium and continue to cook until most of the fat has rendered and the bacon is just about crisp, about 4 minutes.
To this, add the vegetable oil, onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and bell peppers. Saute for about 10-15 minutes, stirring every so often, until the vegetables are very soft. Add the garlic and saute for another 2 minutes.
Next, add the diced and pureed tomatoes, bay leaf, thyme, potatoes, and the stock or clam juice to the pot and mix well. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender.
Add the clams with their juice, the Tabasco, and Worcestershire. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Bring back to a simmer for several minutes until heated through.
Ladle the chowder into bowls and serve with crusty bread or crackers. Oyster crackers are ideal, if you have them.