What a divisive issue the topic of preferred clam chowder style is. There’s the dairy-digesting traditionalists, who like a bowlful of creamy, carby richness and a little artery-slick of bacon. Then there’s the individualists, the ones who work to convince themselves that tomato-based things can ever be as good as anything containing cream (such mental fortitude this group possesses). I knew that the natural contrast when presenting clam chowder recipes would be to have a side-by-side New England vs Manhattan comparison, but alas, I am of the traditionalist camp, believing that clam chowder is worth eating mainly because of the creaminess (if I wanted tomato soup, I’d eat tomato soup). This left the dilemma of finding a Manhattan version that I felt comfortable toting as my own, which wasn’t happening anytime soon.
Then a magic thing happened. I started dreaming of slowly cooked onions and tomatoes, melding together in an olive oil-slicked pot, with fresh clams thrown in to steam open, the whole thing topped with a generous scattering of fresh herbs and spicy morsels of chorizo. Thus Manhattan(ish) clam stew was born. No thin, half-hearted tomato-y broth, or unpredictable combinations of leftover veggies thrown into the mix. Just a slowly simmered stew, almost sauce-like in thickness, with notes of caramelized garlic and white wine, and the bright freshness from the last minute addition of parsley and lemon. In other words, the perfect compromise.