Back in August, the New York Times published a small article on summer chowders. Usually chowder calls up the image of those rich, cream-heavy seafood soups so common in fall and winter in New England. But the article focused instead on lightened warm-weather versions. Less cream and more vegetables set these soups apart from their wintery cousins.
Two recipes were published: one chockful of smoked haddock and bacon and cream - a little too heavy for my taste - and one that had no cream, but lots of vegetables and clams - just right. Not only was the littleneck chowder healthy and light, it was also put together in very little time. John Schaefer, the executive chef at Gramercy Tavern, created the recipe. The fresh tomatoes and new potatoes and herbs give the stew a summery taste. The bok choy adds a bit of crunch. If you like clams, make this! It's delicious. We ate bowlfuls of it outside on my patio, with crusty bread dunked in the well-flavored broth and empty clam shells clanking on a plate. Summer is slowly coming to a close.
First, I sauteed a leek, an onion and some minced garlic in olive oil.
Then I added tomato paste and several diced tomatoes (I didn't bother peeling them and neither should you, unless that kind of thing bothers you, in which case I suppose you could use canned, diced tomatoes), and let the mixture cook down for a few minutes over reduced heat.
After scrubbing the clams, I added them along with the chopped bok choy, thyme, and red pepper flakes and cooked them for a few additional minutes. An aside: because my cast-iron pot was too small, I boiled the potatoes on their own and added them to the chowder at the end.
Because I just couldn't bring myself to make chicken stock during our hot summer, I dissolved some Better than Bouillon chicken base in boiling water and added that with white wine to the pot. I covered the pot and let it simmer for a few minutes, until the clams had opened and the bok choy was tender. No salt or additional pepper was needed by us, but season as you see fit. And of course we ate our chowder with crusty French bread. What else?
Littleneck Clam Chowder With Bok Choy and New Potatoes
Yields 4 servings
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, minced
1 leek (white and light green parts only), well washed and minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped, with juice reserved
24 littleneck clams, scrubbed
1 head baby bok choy, cleaned and chopped
8 new potatoes, cooked until tender and quartered
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
½ cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock or canned broth
Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
1. Place a large wide casserole over medium heat, and add olive oil. Add onion, leek and garlic and sauté until tender. Add tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and any juice. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Add clams, bok choy, potatoes, thyme and hot pepper flakes, and cook an additional 5 minutes.
2. Add wine and chicken stock. Cover, increase heat to medium, and simmer until clams open and bok choy is tender, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve immediately.