I’m a happily landlocked Midwestern girl — give me space for a vegetable garden and I’m good to go — but I’ll admit to a little coastal envy now and then. Mostly, the envy involves fresh seafood. Our fish suppliers do their best to get the freshest deliveries possible — and by “freshest” I mean flash frozen — but it’s in no way a substitute for enjoying a catch mere hours old.
(There’s also the locavore guilt that comes with seafood, but that’s a topic for another day.)
So, in the mood for clam chowder, I hopped onto the interwebs to do a little research. New England clam chowder is a staple at Casa SoupAddict, but I wanted to change things up.
Clearly, I’ve been living under a rock, as I had no idea there was such territorialism about clam chowders. There is as much passionate argument about chowdah as there is BBQ and chili.
Here’s the basic line-up:
- New England clam chowder – cream-based
- Manhattan (or New York) clam chowder – tomato-based
- Rhode Island clam chowder – clear broth (no cream or tomatoes)
- Minorcan clam chowder – a super spicy, tomato-based version, famous in Florida
If the interwebs is to be believed, tomato-based clam chowder was introduced by Portuguese immigrants who settled on the coast in the 1800’s. Several sources say that the red chowder version received its name from the staunch New England version supporters, who concluded that only New Yorkers would be nutty enough to add tomatoes to their chowder. And so the gauntlet was thrown, and the dukes went up.
While they all sounded good (really good), none were quite what I had in mind. I ended up doing what I often do — I just hit the kitchen and start pulling out ingredients. Basically, I wanted a thick New England clam chowder with tomatoes.
Is this is a brand spankin’ new clam chowder invention? Probably not. But so as not to take sides in the Eastern seaboard’s chowdah skirmishes, I created this recipe in my Midwestern kitchen using vegetables from my Cincinnati garden, canned clams from a California company (Bumble Bee), and Italian pancetta. So, there you have it.
Cincinnati Clam Chowder
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 40 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1 tablespoon canola or grapeseed oil
1/4 cup pancetta, diced
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small carrot, diced
2 small Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 tablespoons white wine
1 can (15 oz) crushed or petite diced tomatoes
2 (8 oz) bottles clam juice
3 cans chopped clams, drained, juices reserved
1/2 cup heavy cream or half-and-half
hot pepper sauce
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a 4 or 5 quart dutch oven or large stock pot until shimmering. Add the pancetta and cook until the pancetta begins to lightly brown. Add the onions, celery, carrots and potatoes and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until the onions are soft and beginning to turn golden. Add the garlic and saute for a few minutes more, until fragrant. Add the white wine and deglaze the pan. Add the tomatoes and stir to mix well.
Combine the bottled clam juice along with the reserved juices from the canned clams. You’ll need a total of 4 cups — top off with water, if necessary, reach the 4 cups. Add to the soup. Turn heat to medium-high until soup comes to a boil, then reduce to medium-low, maintaining a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes.
Use an immersion blender to smoothe out the soup to your preferred texture. Reduce heat to low and stir in the heavy cream, clams and a few dashes of hot pepper sauce. Allow soup to gently warm for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper.