Pacific Coast Clam Chowder

adapted slightly from Wives with Knives

1/4 pound thick sliced bacon, chopped

1 medium onion, diced

3/4 cup celery, diced

3 cups unpeeled baby white potatoes, washed, chopped (Russets may be used, but they should be peeled.)

3-4 cans minced clams, drained (retain the juice in a measuring cup)

1 1/2 cups clam juice or chicken stock

2-3 cups half and half

1 bay leaf

1 1/2 tsp thyme leaves

1/4 cup butter

2 Tbsp. flour

1 cup half and half

Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Garnish:  Chopped bacon and/or oyster crackers

Fry the bacon in a soup pot until crisp.  Removed the bacon and drain on a paper towel.  Remove all but about 3 tablespoons bacon fat and saute the onion and celery until translucent.  

Add the potato and 1 1/2 cups of the retained clam juice or use 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, if preferred. Add the bay leaf and the thyme.  Simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15-20 minutes.  

When the potatoes are tender, add 2 or 3 cups of half and half, your preference.  Heat until the soup is barely simmering.

Melt 1/4 cup butter in a medium saucepan.  Stir in 3 tablespoons flour and blend well.  Cook the mixture for 2 minutes, then gradually whisk in 1 cup of half and half.  Stir constantly until the sauce is creamy and thick.

Add this mixture slowly to the simmering soup until it is the consistency that you like.  Add in the reserved bacon.  Keep a few pieces for garnish, if desired.  Simmer the soup for 5-10 minutes.

Serve garnished with a sprinkle of chopped parsley, some of the reserved bacon and oyster crackers.

Note:  If you prefer, fresh clams may be used.  You will need one cup or more fresh clams, shucked and diced.  Prior to adding them to the soup, they should be simmered in a little salted water for 5-10 minutes, until firm.