Sunday, January 23, 2011

Soup Swap - Sea Shanty Spicy Clam Chowder

clam chowder with a twist
Prior to moving to Albany, I worked in a fantastic little restaurant in Washingtonville, N.Y. called the Sea Shanty. The chef-owner, Len Holl, was truly the man who inspired me to view food in a completely different light; no longer was it something on a plate that I was serving merely to make a living.  Instead, it was something in which to take pride and to deliver to my guests with a pleasure previously not experienced. The restaurant was small, ok, it was tiny - 10 tables with a total of 30 seats.  The entire menu was on a large chalk board, generally 4-6 appetizer choices and perhaps 12 or 14 entree options - and was exclusively fish and seafood.  If someone in your party wanted something other than fish, Len would send the dishwasher to Grand Union to pick up a steak or some chicken.  The aroma of meat being broiled always seemed out of place to me, while the fish stink that we all wore upon leaving after a busy night was as familiar as a baby's blanket.  It was a special little place and I still miss it.

It's been 15 years since Len prematurely died, but the lessons I learned from him are deeply ingrained in my food sensibilities and my perspective of hospitality. I will always think of him when I pick up a knife to chop or cut, since he taught me the correct means of performing these tasks. The names Larry Forgione and Paul Prudhomme were the first celebrity chef names I learned, because Len worked with both of them and my understanding about how to treat delivery people and purveyors came directly from Len. Namely, when it is hot outside offer them something cold to drink and when it is cold outside give them something to warm them up. Nothing was more welcomed in winter by our linen delivery man or by Joe, our fish guy (Joe Fish, get it?) than a steaming bowl of Len's Spicy Clam Chowder. For my first appearance at a Soup Swap, naturally I chose Len's chowder as my contribution. So, here's the recipe for you and most especially for Len. I still miss you, my friend, but would like to think you'd be pleased with my attempt at your recipe.  And, thanks Almost Foodies for letting me join the party - I can't wait to eat homemade soup that I didn't make!

Len's Spicy Clam Chowder (makes 8 quarts)
1 gallon of clam juice
2 lbs chopped clams (I used frozen)
1 lb of hot Italian sausage (loose or removed from casings)
3 cans of tomatoes - 2 diced, 1 crushed
3 10 oz boxes of fresh sliced mushrooms (sliced as a time saver)
2 chopped red onions
5 or 6 red potatoes, cubed
1 bunch of parsley coarsely chopped

Crushed red pepper to taste
Chili garlic sauce to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

mushrooms and onions softening in pork fat
In a deep saute pan, break up and brown sausage.  While sausage is cooking, warm clam juice in a very large stock pot over low to medium heat.  Use a slotted spoon to transfer sausage to stock pot, retaining the glistening pork fat in the saute pan.  Working in batches, soften the onions and mushrooms in the saute pan, adding them to the stock pot as they finish cooking.  Toss clams and potatoes into stock pot.  Stir in tomatoes (with can juices) and parsley.  Simmer on low heat for an hour or so and then season with salt, pepper, red pepper and chili garlic sauce.  Serve with oyster crackers and a tasty beer.  Toast Len.  Enjoy.


  1. Yum. Thanks for coming, thank God we waited a bit :) I don't have your soup unfortunately, I apologize for my poor relationship with seafood. What did you bring back?

  2. Where did you manage to find a gallon of clam juice?

    And sadly, I also missed out on your soup, so I shall have to recreate it.

  3. @Sebastian (aka monsieur interesting 2010) I scored curried lentil and eggplant, chicken noodle, squash something, pumpkin something and something something...having my first flavor today as lunch.
    @AJ - The Cousins on Livingston. it was frozen and they had 1 left! Lucky me.

  4. This sounds delicious! Did you get the frozen chopped clams at Cousins too?

  5. @Ellen - The chopped clams came from Price Chopper. Next time I'll check to see what The Cousins have available. PC had frozen chopped clams for $6 lb.

  6. Looks great, and not crazy difficult... Thanks for sharing. I'm only disappointed that I couldn't pick more than six. Yours must have gone fast because I don't recall seeing it on the table!

  7. I love this type of clam chowder as opposed to the New England style. I brought something similar for Soup Swap 2k9. Ask Dan at the Wine Bar - that batch was all him and it was amazing. We used chorizo and bacon.

  8. I was one of those dishwashers! the shrimp bisque was my fav and the crabmeat stuffing was outstanding. RIP Lenny and thank you for my first job opportunity ever.

  9. @erok - Did we overlap at the Shanty?