The problem with most chowders, in my opinion, is that they are simply warm milk or cream with some butter, diced potatoes and clams. This is not my idea of soup. I like soup with body, lots of flavor, and chunks of goodness.
In my search for a delicious clam chowder recipe, I came across Emeril's Chowder of Love, an apt name for a hearty soup that is perfect for a chilly fall day. Of course I had to make it my own, and now I share it with you, with a nod to Emeril.
That Girl's Best Ever Hearty Clam Chowder
1/2 pound lardons
1 medium leek, white and light green parts only, rinsed well
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 celery ribs
1/2 medium-sized yellow onion
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
2 medium-sized russet potatoes, peeled
4 cups clam juice (or 2 cups clam juice and 2 cups chicken stock)
2 cups heavy cream
2 cans clams (baby, minced, your choice -- or more if desired)
Cook lardons in a large soup pot over medium-high heat until crisp.
Dice carrots, celery, onion, and leeks. Add to pot with bacon and rendered fat. Cook until beginning to soften, about 4 minutes, scraping browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Add Old Bay and pepper. Add flour and cook two minutes. Add thyme, bay leaves, and potatoes. Stir to incorporate. Add clam juice and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until potatoes are ready.
Add cream and stir to warm. Add clams. Cook for another 5 minutes until warmed through. Check for seasoning, adding more salt and/or pepper if desired.
Serves 4 - 6