Slow Cooker Manhattan Clam Chowder

My surgery last week was a success and I'm at the point in my recovery where I feel ready to do something besides nap all the time. I'm still sore and don't have a lot of energy, however. I've been flipping through lots of cookbooks and magazines and dreaming up lots of recipes, but I'm not capable of cooking! I'm not even capable of typing---I am pecking this out one letter at a time with my one good hand, which means it should take me a couple of hours to write it (meaning this recipe is even more special!).

My boyfriend has been taking care of me, I guess as payback for me taking care of him last July with his knee surgery. Of course, I get another chance to take care of him when he has heart surgery in May (what is up with us? It's like you turn 30 and your body goes to hell). As a treat, I wrote this Manhattan Clam Chowder recipe especially for him, since he recently fell in love with Cioppino, a zesty tomato-based seafood stew. Full disclosure, I've never had Manhattan Clam Chowder, but this is how I imagine it would taste: a rich, tomato-y broth with bits of celery, onion, carrot, and potato with lots of garlic and clams. I looked for slow cooker recipes online, but didn't find any appealing ones, mainly because the clams were added to the soup and cooked for 8ish hours. That doesn't make sense to that time they should disintegrate, or as my mom says, turn into rubber bands! I'm not going to test our differing hypotheses as to whether we'd have clam mush or clam rubber, so I'm taking a different route. My recipe uses the liquid the clams are canned in as part of the soup, but then the clams are added in the last 30 minutes so they warm through but keep their shape. Another change I made was using ham instead of bacon, which is traditional. I didn't want the oil to render out of the bacon and leave a skin of grease on top. Plus bacon that cooks for hours loses a lot of flavor to the soup, in my opinion. The ham pieces have a lot more integrity after cooking for hours.

A special credit goes to my boyfriend for this because he chopped and prepared it all, while I told him what to do. I was the brains, and he was the brawn. This would taste delicious with a crisp glass of white wine such as Albarino, Vinho Verde, or Sauvignon blanc, assuming you aren't on pain medication, like me!

Slow Cooker Manhattan Clam Chowder
Printable Recipe

1 10-oz bag frozen mirepoix vegetables (diced carrots, celery, and onions)
1 14.5-oz can petite diced tomatoes
1 6-oz can tomato paste
4-5 cloves garlic, minced (my boyfriend voted for 5, and I let him since he was the cook!)
1 medium russet potato, peeled and diced into 1-inch cubes
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp dried savory
1 tbsp dried parsley
1 cup diced ham steak
1 1/2 cups seafood broth
2 8.6-oz cans chopped clams, drained, liquid reserved
1 10-oz can baby clams, drained, liquid reserved
Generous pinch red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
Minced fresh parsley, to garnish

1. In a 4-qt slow cooker, add all ingredients including reserved canned clam liquid (stow clams in the refrigerator until the last half hour of cooking). Season with chili flakes and black pepper; save salting until the end since canned clams can be salty. Cook low 6-8 hours or high 4-6 hours.
2. Add clams. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook 30 more minutes, or until clams are warmed through. Serve immediately, garnished with parsley.

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