First Snow Clam Chowder
Clams, canned or fresh, if canned save the liquid.
2 bottles of clam juice
5-6 stalks of celery, sliced thin (or to taste)
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
5-6 large potatoes, diced (to taste)
4-6 strips of thick cut bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1.5 cups half and half
2 shallots, chopped
salt and pepper
1 stick butter
1/3 to 1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup white wine.
Clean, steam and shell clams: Scrub all sand away from clam shells, wash thoroughly with fresh water. Add the white wine to equal amount of water and steam the clams. Let the steamed clams cool. Strain the steaming liquid to remove any sand, and when shelling the clams, save any liquid from inside the shells. Set liquid and clams aside.
Render the bacon in large stock pot, remove most of the bacon fat and add 1-2 tablespoons of butter. Sauté the celery and shallots with the bacon until translucent add garlic, bay leaf, and thyme and sauté just a couple of more minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic or butter. When garlic is fragrant, add potatoes and clam juice from jars as well as any reserved stock. Add enough water to cover the potatoes by a couple of inches. Turn flame to high to bring to a boil. Allow to boil for a minute or two, then reduce heat, cook until potatoes are fork tender. In a sauté pan, add ½ stick of butter and flour, stir constantly until cooked (about 4-5 minutes). Add 2-3 scoops of the warm liquid from the stock pot to the flour mixture, and blend until smooth, add the flour mixture to the stock pot to thicken. Add half and half and clams to the soup, salt and pepper to taste. Let flavors marry for a couple of hours (if you can stand to wait). Be careful not to boil again once clams and milk are added.
Serve warm with crackers or as with toasted and buttered sourdough bread.