Rhode Island clam chowder

Chef Jeff Cruff, Matunuck Oyster Bar, South Kingstown, RI. Recipe adapted from Jasper White, Cooking From New England.

8 pounds small quahogs or large cherrystone clams  
4 ounces slab bacon, finely diced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter  
2 medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
3 stalks celery, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
2 bay leaves  
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces  
2-3 cups clam broth or bottled clam juice  
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf Italian parsley  
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives  
1 teaspoon minced fresh dill

  1. Check clams and make sure none of them are already open. If any are, gently push shells together with your fingers to see if clam will close. If not, discard it. Scrub and rinse clams. 
  2. Steam clams. Place an inch of water in bottom of a large pot. Add clams and cover pot. Bring to a boil. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until shells are open. Remove clams from pot, discarding any that did not open. Strain and reserve broth. Dice clams into 1/2-inch pieces. Cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to use. 
  3. Place a large heavy pot over low heat and add bacon. Cook until bacon is crisp and golden brown. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of fat, leaving bacon in pot.
  4. Increase heat to medium, and add butter, onions, celery, and bay leaves and cook, stirring occasionally for 10-15 minutes, until onions are softened. 
  5. Add potatoes, reserved clam broth, and 2-3 cups broth (adding 4 cups total), and continue to cook until chowder begins to simmer; if it begins to boil, turn down heat. Cook for about 15 minutes longer, until potatoes are very tender. 
  6. Remove pot from heat, stir in diced clams, and season with salt and black pepper. Stir in parsley, chives, and dill. Ladle chowder into serving bowls and serve warm. 

Serves 8-10.

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