8-10 bacon strips divided
2 Tbsp. butter
2 celery ribs chopped
1 leek finely chopped
1 large onion chopped
2-3 garlic cloves minced
3-4 small potatoes (red potatoes or Yukon gold) peeled and cubed
1 cup broth chicken or vegetable
1 bottle 8 ounces clam juice
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups half-and-half divided
3 cans 6-1/2 ounces each of whole clams, chopped into chunky pieces, drained
Chopped fresh chives or green onions for garnish
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In a Dutch oven, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove to paper towels to drain; set aside. Add butter to the drippings (you can spoon out some of the drippings if you don’t want to ues that much); saute celery, leek, and onion until tender. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer. Stir in the potatoes, broth, clam juice, salt, pepper and thyme. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes or until potatoes are tender.
In a small bowl, combine flour and 1 cup half-and-half until smooth. Gradually stir into the soup. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1-2 minutes or until thickened.
Stir in (drained) clams and remaining half-and-half; heat through (do not boil); turn down to low heat; add the bay leaf. Cook for additional 2-3 minutes on low heat. Add in 4 strips of crumbled bacon.
Crumble the reserved 2 strips of bacon. Garnish chowder with crumbled bacon and fresh chopped chives.