Manhattan Clam Chowder

Chef Jasper White freezes the bacon before preparing the chowder, making it easier to cut.

4 ounces slab (unsliced) bacon, rind removed and cut into 1/3-inch dice
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped (1 tablespoon)
1 large onion (10 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 stalks celery (4 ounces), cut into 1/3-inch dice
1 medium green bell pepper (6 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 medium carrots (4 ounces), cut into 1/2-inch dice
Dried bay leaves
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds Yukon gold, Maine, PEI, or other all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
5 cups Clam Broth, recipe follows
1 (28-ounce) can whole peeled tomatoes in juice, cut into 1/2-inch dice
Diced clams (reserved from Clam Broth recipe)
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat a 4 to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over low heat, and add the bacon. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium, and cook until the bacon is crisp and golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, leaving the bacon in the pot. Add the olive oil and garlic, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, carrots, bay leaves, oregano, and crushed red pepper. Sauté, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until vegetables are softened but not browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the potatoes and clam broth. The broth should just barely cover the potatoes; if it doesn't, add enough water to cover. Increase the heat, bring to a boil, cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center, about 10 minutes. If the broth hasn't thickened lightly, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more to release the starch. Add the tomatoes, and simmer 5 minutes more. Remove pot from the heat, stir in the diced clams and parsley, and season with salt and black pepper. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has chilled completely. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to 1 hour, allowing the flavor to meld. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; don't let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls, making sure the clams, vegetables, and bacon are evenly divided.

Clam Broth:
8 pounds small quahogs or large cherrystone clams
2 cups water

Scrub the clams, and rinse clean. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in an 8-quart stockpot over high heat. Add the clams, and cover tightly. After 5 minutes, uncover, and stir the clams with a wooden spoon. Quickly cover the pot again, and let steam for 5 minutes more, or until most of the clams have opened. Don't wait for them all to open, or they will be overcooked. It should only take a little tug or prying to open the stragglers once they are all removed from the heat. The total cooking time for large cherrystones will be about 10 minutes; quahogs will need as much as 5 more minutes. While the clams are steaming, the broth should become foamy and light. It usually spills over a bit just as the clams are cooked and ready. As soon as you remove the clams from the stove, carefully pour as much of the broth as you can into a tall, narrow container. Let the broth sit for 10 minutes, then carefully pour through a fine-mesh strainer. After sitting, 99 percent of the grit will have collected at the bottom of the container. If you are not using the broth within the hour, chill it as quickly as possible, and cover it after it has completely cooled. Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Remove the clams from their shells, cover, and refrigerate. After they have cooled a bit, dice them into 1/2-inch pieces. Cover again, and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

Yield: about 1 quart broth and 2 cups clam meat

Yield: 13 cups

Source of recipe: Jasper White