A gourmet fish stock really makes all the difference in this soup, so don’t skimp on cheap bouillon cubes. Better yet, make your own by saving vegetable and herb scraps — such as thyme, parsley, onions, celery, fennel, and carrots — and shrimp shells in your freezer until you have a few cups’ worth. Then simmer them in a large pot of water with a generous pinch of salt. Pour through a strainer and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup yellow onion, diced
1 cup celery, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry white wine
2 cups fish stock
1 cup plum tomatoes, hand crushed
2 sprigs thyme
¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
2 cups gold potatoes, diced
2 pounds fresh clams (or 6 ounces canned clams, roughly chopped)
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Melt the butter in a medium-size pot over medium heat. Cook the onions and celery, stirring often for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the wine, fish stock, tomatoes, and herbs. Bring to a simmer, then add the potatoes, cover, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are nearly soft.
Add the clams and cover the pot again. Allow them to steam for about 8-10 minutes until nearly all of them have opened. (Discard any that don’t open.) Remove most of the clam shells, possibly reserving a few for garnish if you wish. If you’re using canned clams, drain, rinse, roughly chop, and add to the soup just before you’re ready to serve.
Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve with crusty bread or in keeping with tradition, oyster crackers.