For being a relatively picky eater when I was a kid, I was surprisingly not turned off by fish. In fact, New England clam chowder was one of my favorite soups, right behind cream of mushroom. I’m certainly not going to claim that I had some sort of advanced palate (far from it); if you put any sort of creamy soup in front of me, I would drink it right up. My grandma always had cans of both New England and Manhattan clam chowder in her pantry. If I was offered Manhattan clam chowder, I would run for the hills, screaming my picky little head off. Fish wasn’t an issue, but oh boy, do not try to serve me soup with chunks of tomato in it. Sure, I loved tomato soup, but it was smooth. I didn’t want chunks of tomato. Feeding kids is awesome, huh? I’m pretty sure karma is going to eat me alive.
A couple of weeks ago, my Chief Culinary Consultant mentioned that I hadn’t made soup in awhile, so I asked him for some ideas, and one of them was Manhattan clam chowder. Every part of me wanted to scream, “Nooooo! No chunky tomatoes in soup!”… but, I acted like a grown-up and happily made the pot of soup, thinking that perhaps my aversion could have corrected itself in the last 25 years. Turns out, it had, because I was totally stunned when I took my first spoonful. It was amazing, and so flavorful! In fact, now I think I might actually like this better than the New England version. Crazy!
I’ve found that for most soups to develop a real depth of flavor, they require quite a bit of cooking time. Not so in this case. I was surprised that this could be prepped, cooked, and ready to eat in just over an hour. Most of that time was spent chopping up the vegetables, so if you did that ahead of time and stored them in the fridge, you could have this on the table in well under an hour, which makes it a fantastic weeknight meal option.
Not only am I thrilled that I found a new recipe for a fantastic pot of soup, but I feel like a bonafide adult for not picking out the chunks of tomato.
In a large pot or 7¼-quart Dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium-low heat until the fat renders and the bacon crisps, 5 to 7 minutes. Add the onion, pepper, carrot and celery, reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and oregano and sauté for 1 minute.
Add the wine and increase the heat to high. Boil the wine until it reduces by half, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the 3 bottles of clam juice, the reserved canned clam juices, the potatoes, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, smash some of the potatoes against the side of the pot, then simmer for 5 more minutes.
Add the diced tomatoes (along with their juice), bring back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from heat, stir in the canned clams and season with salt and pepper to taste; discard the bay leaf. (Chowder can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days. Warm over low heat until hot.) Stir in parsley and serve immediately.