The "white" version of clam chowder might be the more well-known of the two, but that doesn't mean it's better. This soup may not be creamy, but it's full of fresh seafood flavor, the bright taste of tomatoes and just a hint of spice.
Technique tip: This soup is always better the next day. To step up the presentation, steam 2 dozen littlenecks in a covered pot, place in soup bowls and ladle over the hot clam chowder.
For the clams:1.
In a large sauce pot, sauté the garlic cloves in butter over medium heat until browned. Add thyme sprigs and white wine. Bring mixture to a boil, add the clams and cover. Cook over medium heat for 6-10 minutes until opened.2.
Let the clams cool, remove from shell and dice, paying particular attention to the round muscle portions. Set aside.3.
Strain the cooking liquid through cheesecloth and a fine sieve. Reserve.
For the chowder:1.
In medium sized soup pot, cook the bacon over medium heat. Cook until slightly browned and starting to crisp. Add minced garlic and cook until just starting to brown. Add the onions and celery and cook until they start to get translucent. Using a wooden spoon, scrape up any bits that have gathered on the bottom of the pan. Add the red pepper and continue to cook for another 3-4 minutes.2.
Place the plum tomatoes in a medium bowl and crush with your hands breaking up the tomatoes into rougher, smaller pieces. Add these to the soup pot. Add the reserved clam stock as well as half of the clam juice and the bay leaf. Simmer for 15-20 minutes over low heat. During this time adjust your seasoning using salt and chili flakes. Add the carrots and diced potatoes and let simmer another 10-15 minutes until tender. Add the reserved chopped clams and heat through.3.
Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle with chopped parsley and oyster crackers and serve.