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Cooking in the Country

Manhattan Clam Chowder - A family recipe

Claire Stabbert
Posted 9/17/21

I was raised on soups from my grandmother Shirley and Grandpa Fred. Grandma Shirley loved making lentil soup and made a mean chicken noodle, but my grandfather’s favorite was Manhattan Clam …

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Cooking in the Country

Manhattan Clam Chowder - A family recipe

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I was raised on soups from my grandmother Shirley and Grandpa Fred. Grandma Shirley loved making lentil soup and made a mean chicken noodle, but my grandfather’s favorite was Manhattan Clam Chowder.

So much so, that he would bring pots of it to an annual clam bake, held by the Delaware Hunting Club out of Westbrookville. The club was started by founding members (one of them being my great-grandfather Fred Stabbert Sr.).

My father Fred Stabbert III and brother Andrew are both members, and we continue to celebrate the annual clam bake today and although my grandfather is no longer with us, my dad carries on that tradition of entertaining guests, cooking the chicken, and making Manhattan Clam Chowder, shining light on the main ingredient and his favorite part… clams.

To that end, he uses a recipe that includes lots of clams and surprises guests with a shelled clam in the bottom of their cup or bowl. Your guests will be having more than just one serving so be sure to make extra.

To start:

2 slices bacon

1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

2 carrots, peeled and sliced

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 onion, chopped

2 Tbsp minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon celery seed

2 bay leaves

12 oz. tomato juice

1 14-oz. can of clam broth or juice

2 10-ounce cans of baby clams, juice reserved

1 pound waxy potatoes,  peeled and cut into small chunks

1 dozen Littleneck clams

First and foremost… he’s found it sooo much easier to have all your slicing and dicing of your vegetables done before you start cooking. This is called your mise en place.

This process really goes fast once you start… so have everything in bowls, cans all opened, spices at the ready and chef’s hat on.

He also starts with the whole process in the pot that you are going to finish in, so as not to lose any oil or bacon renderings.

Ok, now we’re ready… put the olive oil and bacon in a pot and cook until crispy. You then take the bacon out and leave the oil in the pot.

Crank the heat up to medium high and sautee the carrots, celery and onions, about 4-5 minutes. Don’t brown vegetables, you just want to cook them down so the onions are translucent. Return chopped bacon to pot.

Add the garlic and give it another minute to two, careful not to burn. Add the spices, tomato juice, clam broth and juice from the canned clams. Mix well and let it cook for five minutes.

Then add the potatoes, cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Check to make sure vegetables are tender (cutting the vegetables into smaller pieces will cut down on your cooking time) and then add the clams, both live and canned.

It will take another 10-15 minutes for clams to open and you are done. Season with salt or pepper to taste, but given the bacon, I never added either.

Some also add Tabasco for garnish, but he prefers to let the soup speak for itself. It will last about 3 days in the fridge, but he makes a monster batch (six times the recipe) and freezes it. It will last for three-to-six months, comfortably. Reheat slowly after freezing, so you don’t lose anything on the bottom.

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