I'll admit, New England Clam Chowder is undoubtedly the Clam Chowder that first comes to most people's minds......but, the cousin to the white chowder, is a red chowder. Most refer to the red as Manhattan Clam Chowder. My red chowder differs from most Manhattan Chowder recipes, in that is does not include potato or bacon. In fact it does not even have chunks of onion or garlic. This recipe uses an infusion of those flavors. In short, this Stew is all about the Clams and Tomatoes...and it is teeming with both. I think you will find this recipe most satisfying and your guests will rave about it.
Open the 51 oz can of clams. Strain, reserving 2 cups of clam juice. Refrigerate the drained clams until ready to add to the stew. Set the juice aside (reserve until later). Any excess juice can be frozen for later use.
In a large pot, add the tomatoes and their juices, tomato sauce, halved onion, halved garlic head, red pepper flakes, olive oil and bay leaf. Bring to a boiling point over med/hi heat. Reduce heat and simmer (uncovered) on the lowest heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
After reduction, fish out the bay leaf, garlic, and onion, and discard. Add the reserved 2 cups of clam juice and the clam base. (Clam Base) is found at a commercial type store like Smart and Final. Bring to boiling point again and simmer (uncovered) on the lowest burner for 30 minutes more.
At this point, you can cool the tomato base for your chowder and assemble the next day...or you can proceed by adding the strained clams and basil. Heat just until steam point and serve with hearty bread or garlic toast.