Citizens, virtually everyone knows of New England Clam Chowder and Manhattan Clam Chowder. A select and discerning few know of the Rhode Island variant but practically no one knows about the *4th* historic clam chowder type – a super-rare, hyper-local version from St. Augustine, Florida!
This so-called “Minorcan” Clam chowder at first glance looks like the Manhattan version, as it is also tomato-based.
All similarities cease once you taste it, however! It not only carries a strong herbal flavor totally lacking in Manhattan, but also a substantive amount of spice from the incredibly rare Datil pepper, grown only around St. Augustine and in Northeastern Florida, which is an integral part of the recipe!
Habaneros are close in flavor profile – and in a pinch you COULD use them in place of Datils. I instead encourage you to gird your culinary loins and grow your own Datil plants!
Raymond Powers is a local St. Augustine gardener who will happily sell you some of his heirloom Datil pepper seeds – contact him via this link or use Datil pepper-based hot sauce for a true authentic flavor (Amazon link in the recipe).
…and just to show you how seriously TFD takes this, see below! 😀
Minorcan clam chowder is indeed one of St. Augustine’s signature dishes. St. Augustine natives insist there is no substitute for the datil’s sweet-tart, citrusy hot taste – and they’re right.
Centuries ago, settlers from Minorca, an island near the coast of Spain, were brought to Florida during the 1500’s. They worked as indentured servants on Florida’s indigo plantations. It’s thought they picked up the ancestor of the Datil pepper during a stopover in Cuba.
Once on Florida’s shores, the Minorcans created this fantastic chowder by blending their Mediterranean cooking methods with local seafood, herbs and produce and that amazing little pepper.
My version – of course – brooks no tolerance for nothing less than the ultimate in authenticity! Citizens, you will love this recipe, of this I am certain!
Battle on – The Generalissimo
2 dozen small fresh Cherrystone clams
4 oz. salt pork – substitute bacon if you must, but salt pork is the authentic taste!
½ – 3 datil pepper, deseeded and minced (use half a pepper if you’re a wuss, 3 for true chili fiends – TFD typically includes 2), or use Datil Hot Sauce from http://www.amazon.com/Datl-Do-It-Pepper-Sauce/dp/B008PHMNUU/
1 medium onion, diced in small pieces
1 large leafy stalk of celery, de-stringed, diced in small pieces including leaves (reserve leaves separately)
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
1 cup diced small red potatoes, peeled (2-3 total)
1 15-ounce can chopped tomatoes, San Marzano preferred
3 tablespoons tomato paste, San Marzano preferred
2 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 ½ teaspoons fresh marjoram (preferred) or fresh oregano, minced
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves, minced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
3 bay leaves
1 8-ounce bottle Bar Harbor clam juice
2 cups homemade fish stock
Take the salt pork and cut it up into tiny pieces. Place in a soup pot and cook for 10 minutes.
When the salt pork is browned, scoop out and place on a paper towel (leave the fat in pan) and with the remaining rendered fat, add the diced onion, celery, yellow pepper and carrots.
Cook 5-10 minutes until the onions go translucent (clear). If there is not enough fat rendered off to cook the vegetables, add one tablespoon of olive oil.
Stir in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and all the seasonings, including the Datils or hot sauce.
Next add the clam juice and fish stock. Let it simmer on low heat for 1 hour. While simmering, prepare the clams.
Directions for cooking clams:
Place the 2-dozen fresh clams in a colander in the sink. Lightly scrub the outside of the clams and rinse to remove any dirt or sand.
Place the clams in a large pan over medium high heat with ⅓ cup of water. Cover the pan and cook the clams for approximately 10 minutes. When the clams open, they are cooked. Remove from stove.
Back at the sink, place the clams in the colander, let drain. Any clams that do not open, throw away.
When the clams cool, remove the meat from the shells. Chop the clam meat in diced pieces. Discard the remaining clamshells. Set clams aside.
Add one cup of the diced potatoes to the soup and cook approximately 20 minutes further or until the potatoes are tender.
Add the chopped clams and cooked salt pork plus the reserved diced celery leaves. Cook just long enough until the clams and pork are heated through (5 minutes).
Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. This is a soup that tastes even better reheated the next day.