1 pound russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
3 slices bacon, finely chopped
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/4 cups chopped celery with leaves (about 2 large stalks)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 large Costco can (51oz.) chopped sea clams, drained, juices reserved
1 1/4 cups half and half
1 teaspoon Tabasco
Bring bottled clam juice and potatoes to boil in heavy large saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Melt butter in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook until bacon begins to brown, about 8 minutes. Add onions, celery, garlic and bay leaf and sauté until vegetables soften, about 6 minutes. Stir in flour and cook 2 minutes (do not allow flour to brown). Gradually whisk in reserved juices from clams. Add potato mixture, clams, half and half and hot pepper sauce. Simmer chowder 5 minutes to blend flavors, stirring frequently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (Can be prepared 1 day ahead. Refrigerate uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Bring to simmer before serving.)
This makes either 8 cups of soup, or 4 bowls. I tripled this recipe for dinner club + extra. Would be especially well presented in sourdough bread bowls (you have to order these from a bakery with a little advance notice). Incredibly easy and very well received! It would be a great special occasion meal. I know someone that uses this recipe for their Christmas Eve dinner every year.