It’s happened to everyone. You sit down to a bowl of chowder, and raise a heaping spoonful to your mouth. It’s got a big chunk of something, and you assume it’s a clam. But you bite into it, and it’s not. It’s a potato, and your disappointment knows no bounds.
I hate when that happens, and I never want it to happen in my house. I do use potato in my chowder, but I cook it first, with onion and corn, and then puree it. You then get the two-fold benefit of avoiding potato disappointment and thickening your chowder.
Here’s how to do it: Cook a few slices of bacon in a pan, pour off the excess oil, and saute an onion and potato, chopped small, in the remaining bacon fat. Add a cup or so of frozen corn, and enough clam juice and chicken stock (1/3 clam juice, 2/3 stock — or thereabouts) to cover. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until everything’s soft, 10-15 minutes. Put the whole shebang in a blender and puree.
In the same pan, saute a few celery ribs and a couple of carrots (which you chopped while the other stuff cooked). Add just a little water and cook them until they’re the consistency you like them. Add the pureed mixture, the bacon (crumbled) and a couple of cups of chopped clams with their juice (feel free to use canned). Season with salt (which you probably won’t need, given the clam juice) and pepper, and maybe a little Worcestershire sauce. I also use a little chopped sage. Finish with as much half-and-half as your arteries can tolerate.