An American classic really, I remember loving this chowder as a kid as long as it wasn't wallpaper paste. We used to collect up clams while on spring break in Florida and my mom would whip up a batch of something similar. I also have lots of sunburned memories of Cape Cod thrown into the mix here too. —thirschfeld
8 six ounce servings
For the crackers
Old Bay Seasoning
a two finger pinch fine sea salt
For the soup
eight oz. bottles Bar Harbor clam juice
six oz. cans Bar Harbor clams, chop them if they are whole, juice drained and reserved
yellow onion, peeled and small dice
celery, washed, trimmed and small dice
garlic, peeled and minced
fennel seed, crushed
1 1/2 teaspoons
dried bay leaves
all purpose flour (optional, depends on if you want thick chowder or not)
yukon gold potatoes, peeled and 1/2 inch dice
For the crackers, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the oil, seasoning and salt in a mixing bowl. Add the crackers and toss to coat them well with the seasoned oil. Spread then out on a baking sheet and bake them for 10 minutes or until they start to take on a little golden color. Remove them from the oven and let cool.
Place a 3 1/2 quart heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat and add the bacon. Let the bacon render its fat (you should have about two tablespoons of fat in the pan) and saute it until it becomes crispy, not crunchy, and starts to brown.
Add the butter, onions and celery. Saute the vegetables until they are tender but do not brown them. Add the garlic, thyme and fennel. Saute until the spices become fragrant, not even a minute.
If you aren't using the flour add the clam juice and move on to the next step. If you want thicker chowder add the flour and stir it around letting it absorb the fat. Once the flour starts to smell the slightest bit nutty add the clam juice and the reserved clam juice. It is important to cook the flour taste out of the flour so be patient and make sure you cook it long enough.
Add the half and half. Bring the liquid to a boil and add the potatoes. Bring it back to a boil and then reduce the heat to the lowest simmer setting your stove has. Taste the soup to see how salty the clam juice is, adjust the seasoning by adding more salt if necessary. Add a few grinds of white pepper. Add the clams, stir then cover the pot and let it simmer for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are cooked through.
Turn off the heat and let the chowder sit, covered, for one hour to let the flavors meld.
Before serving add the parsley and chives. Adjust the seasoning and reheat the chowder till hot. Serve.