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Tomato Clam Bisque

Boy, is this good--a rib-sticking, rich, yet delicate first course; serve hot for 6-8 people.

Melt butter in a large saucepan, stir in the flour, and cook for 2-3 minutes over low heat. Pour in the fish stock slowly, whisking constantly, til thickened--then stir in the clam juice from the tins, reserving the clams themselves until the very end (so they don't toughen).

Gradually add the cream, then the tomato sauce, then the tomatoes, sugar, and seasonings. Simmer uncovered at low heat for about 30 minutes. When ready to serve, remove the bay leaf, add the clams, season to taste, and heat through for a minute or two. Ladle into bowls with a garnish of chives or thyme.