Looking for Manhattan Clam Chowder? Jax's Sheila Lucero Has You Covered.

If you’ve read this week’s review of the Chowder Room, you know how excited I was that a restaurant dedicated to chowder was opening in Denver. (If you haven’t read it yet, what are you waiting for?) You also know how disappointed I was to find out that one of the most recognizable varieties, Manhattan clam chowder, wasn’t on the regular menu. Rather than take my chances with the Chowder Room's chowder-of-the-day rotation where the Manhattan version shows up every few weeks, I reached out to Sheila Lucero, executive chef of all the Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar locations, who kindly provided me with a recipe so that I could make it myself. And when I inquired if it would have plenty of tomatoes and fresh (not canned) clams, she had one response: “Of course.”

Manhattan Clam Chowder

Recipe courtesy of Sheila Lucero, Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar
Serves 4

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 oz. yellow onion, sliced
1 oz. carrot, peeled and cut into 2 inch chunks
1 rib celery, chopped
½ oz. garlic, smashed
1 oz. tomato paste
2 oz. red wine
23 oz. tomato juice
15 oz. clam juice, reserved from cooking clams or high-quality canned
1/8 tsp. red chile flakes
1 tsp. thyme, fresh
1 tsp. tarragon, fresh
1 tsp. parsley, fresh
1 12-oz can canned whole tomatoes, crushed by hand

Vegetables, blanched separately:
1 large Yukon gold potato (approx. 1 pound), diced and blanched
2 large carrots, peeled and diced and blanched
2 ribs celery, diced and blanched

24 top neck clams, purged, and rinsed
2 tbsp. butter, unsalted
salt and pepper to taste

1 pint heirloom cherry tomatoes
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. fresh cracked black pepper
1 tsp. thyme, chopped
1 tsp. parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. For the base, sweat the onions, carrots, celery and garlic in olive oil for 10 minutes on a medium heat. Add tomato paste and slightly caramelize. Deglaze with wine and reduce by half. Add tomato juice, clam juice, and red chile flakes. Add herbs. Bring mixture to a boil and then turn down to a simmer for 30 minutes. Strain through a china cap with large holes. Add crushed tomatoes.

While the tomato broth is simmering, toss cherry tomatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on a small baking sheet and roast until blistered, about 20 minutes.

To blanch the vegetables: In a medium-sized sauce pot, bring 3 qt. of water to a boil, and heavily salt the water. It should taste like the sea. Cook each type of vegetable separately. Cook each vegetable until just slightly cooked through. Strain, cool and set aside until you are ready to assemble.

With tomato broth hot and simmering, place cleaned clams in broth. Cover broth with a lid and simmer for about 5 minutes or until clams start to open up. Add blanched vegetables. Once clams are starting to open add butter, salt and pepper. Place 6 clams in each bowl and pour equal amounts of broth into each bowl. Toss roasted tomatoes with fresh chopped herbs and add equal amounts to each bowl. Serve with grilled baguette.

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Gretchen Kurtz has worked as a writer for 25 years; during that time she's stomped grapes in Napa, eaten b'stilla in Fez, and baked with Buddy Valastro, aka the Cake Boss. Her work has appeared in publications including Boulevard (Paris), Diversion, the New York Times and Westword. Our restaurant critic since 2012, she loves helping you decide where to eat and drink tonight.
Contact: Gretchen Kurtz