Cafe Provencal Clam Soup

Serving Size : 4
Preparation Time: 1:30

24 small clams
1 small yellow onion
4 stalks celery
2 shallots
1 1/2 cloves garlic
1/2 carrot
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 pinch saffron
2 1/2 cups half and half
Hot pepper sauce
Fresh thyme leaves for garnish (optional)


Scrub the clams. Slice the onion and 2 ribs of the celery.
Chop 1 shallot and 1/2 clove of the garlic. Cut the other shallot, carrot, and remaining 2 ribs celery into 1/4-inch dice.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, 2 ribs sliced celery, whole clove garlic, and bay leaf and cook over low heat, covered, about 3 minutes. Add the water and 1/2 cup of the wine. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the clams and cook covered, until just opened, about 2 minutes, being careful not to overcook. Remove clams. Strain the cooking liquid through a sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth or a coffee filter and reserve. When clams are cool enough to handle, remove meat from shells and set aside. Discard any clams that don't open. cheesecloth or a coffee filter and reserve.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a saucepan over low heat. Add the chopped shallot and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the oregano and thyme and cook for 1 minute. Add remaining cup of wine and reserved clam cooking liquid and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the chopped 1/2 clove garlic and a pinch of saffron and cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Add the half and half and season with salt and pepper and red-pepper sauce. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.

Heat remaining 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat and saute the diced shallot, carrot and celery until tender, about 3 minutes.

Recipe can be made to this point several hours ahead.

SERVING: Reheat soup. Add the clams and sauteed vegetables and garnish with fresh thyme leaves.