Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sorry New England, Manhattan is One Up on You!

I love creamy, rich New England clam chowder.  But, ohhh those calories.  Less known, but just as delicious is Manhattan clam chowder.  Clam broth based, loaded with vegetables and clams, this soup is lighter, brighter and healthier.  I make my version of this chowder using homemade fish broth (ask your fishmonger for white fish bones- not from oily fish).  I also like to make a large batch of the soup base (minus the fish) to freeze in double portions and save for later.  When I want a bowl of this great soup, I gently warm the soup, then add cubes of fish until they are just cooked through.  My local fishmonger, Codfather's in Kelowna, sells assorted bits of fish, cubed, which work well in this soup.

It can easily become Manhattan clam chowder, by steaming two dozen fresh clams and adding the clam meat at the end of the soup making process, or by adding canned whole clams.

To make 4-6 portions.

4     oz bacon, chopped (or substitute pancetta, chopped)
2     tbsp olive oil
3     garlic cloves, finely chopped
1     large onion, dice
2     celery stalks, diced 
1     med green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced  
2     med carrots, peeled, diced 
2     dried bay leaves
2     tsp dried oregano 
½    tsp crushed red pepper flakes 
1 ½ lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, diced 
5     cups homemade fish broth from white, non oily, fish bones or substitue clam liquid and/or clam broth
3/4  cup white wine (optional) to add depth of flavour
1     lb fish, use your favourite white fish or an assortment, cut in one-inch cubes (or use freshly steamed clams, or canned clams)
1     28-ounce can whole tomatoes 
¼    cup fresh parsley, chopped  
salt and pepper to taste

Add bacon to a large dutch oven set over low heat. When bacon starts to render some fat, turn heat to medium and cook until crisp, about five minutes. Drain bacon on paper towels. Remove all but one tablespoon of fat from dutch oven.  

Pour olive oil into dutch oven. Add garlic, and cook until very fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add onion, celery, bell pepper, carrots, bay leaves, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Cook, stirring often with wooden spoon, until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.  

Add potatoes, fish (or clam) broth, and enough extra water (if needed) to just cover potatoes.   If using wine, add at this point.  Turn heat to medium-high, and bring to boil. Partially cover dutch oven and cook until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Smash some cubed potatoes with wooden spoon, to help thicken the broth.  

Chop canned tomatoes. Add them to dutch oven, along with remaining tomato juice. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.  

Turn off heat, add cubes of fish (or clams) and parsley. Stir well, and let sit for five minutes covered. Serve with crumbed bacon on top.

You can always vary the fish that you add to the soup.  Or add more seasonal vegetables.  Instead of white wine, you could add marsala wine for an "Italian" touch.

Make a great shrimp broth: save and freeze shrimp shells,  When you have a pot full it's time to make the broth.  Put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a pan and heat on medium heat.  Add the shrimp shells and half an onion and stir.  After about 15 minutes, add eight cups of water and simmer for approximately 30 minutes.  Strain and Voilà!

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