- 34 fresh Cherrystone or Little Neck clams
- 3 strips bacon, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
- 2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
- 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
- 1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
- 1 Tablespoon minced thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 Cups canned crushed tomatoes
- 2 Cups tomato juice
- Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 Cups New England clam chowder
- Dash of Tabasco
- 1 Tablespoon salted butter, at room temperature
Under cold running water, scrub the clams thoroughly to remove all sand and grit. Set aside.
Place the bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently, for about five minutes or until the bacon bits are crisp and all of the fat has rendered out.
Add the garlic, potatoes, celery, onion, bell pepper, thyme and bay leaf. Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the clams. Cover and allow to steam for about 15 minutes or until all of the clams have opened. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the clams from the saucepan to a large platter, discarding any that have not opened.
Add the tomatoes and tomato juice to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.
While the soup is cooking, remove and chop the meat from 16 of the clams. Discard the shells and reserve the chopped meat. Reserve the remaining whole clams.
Place the New England Clam Chowder in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat to just keep warm.
Stir the butter into the Manhattan Clam Chowder. Add the chopped clams and season to taste with salt, pepper and Tabasco. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the soup is very hot. Working with one bowl at a time, carefully place 1 ladleful (about 1 cup) of New England Clam Chowder into one side of a shallow soup bowl. Carefully place another ladleful of Manhattan Clam Chowder into the opposite side allowing the two soups to meet in the middle. Place 3 clams in their shells in the center where the soups meet.