My family celebrates Christmas eve by sitting down to a big dinner. Back when my siblings and I were in our 20s, these meals were long, epic affairs that lasted until midnight and beyond. Now that we all have kids, they tend to be more punctuated but more lively with lots of adult and child banter (last year we had grilled oysters, roasted pork, and about 857 cookies). This bay scallop chowder, clipped from Food & Wine in 1998, makes its appearance at our holiday table every few years. It's a terrific starter course because most of it can be made ahead, and it feeds a crowd. —Amanda Hesser
Melt the butter in a large enameled cast-iron casserole. Add the bacon and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until lightly browned, about 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring, until the garlic is fragrant, about 2 minutes.
Add the clam broth, chicken stock and bouquet garni to the casserole and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to moderately high heat and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes. (The recipe can be refrigerated for up to 2 days. Bring to a boil before proceeding.)
Add the diced potatoes to teh soup and cook over moderately high heat until just tender, about 10 minutes. Discard the bouquet garni.
In a medium bowl, whisk 1/4 cup of the heavy cream with the cornstarch until smooth. Whisk in the remaining 2 cups cream, then whisk the mixture into the soup. Bring the soup to a boil over moderately high heat. Add the leeks and cook until just tender, about 4 minutes. (The chowder can stand at room temperature for up to 3 hours. Rewarm before finishing.)
Stir the scallops into the chowder and cook over moderate heat just until opaque throughout, 2 to 3 minutes; don't let the soup boil. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle the chowder into a tureen or individual bowls. Garnish with the chopped chives and serve at once.
Before starting Food52 with Merrill, I was a food writer and editor at the New York Times. I've written several books, including "Cooking for Mr. Latte" and "The Essential New York Times Cookbook." I played myself in "Julie & Julia" -- hope you didn't blink, or you may have missed the scene! I live in Brooklyn with my husband, Tad, and twins, Walker and Addison.