However, this is something I like to call "Mahwah" Clam Chowder. Taking its dairy-based cue from its New England brethren, the main difference in this version is that it utilizes fresh Little Neck Clams as well as clam juice in place of water; both of which quickly bring to mind that bread-sopping clam-flavored goodness found in the broth that sits at the bottom of a bowl of those delicious steamed clams served in countless restaurants in northern New Jersey.
Not quite as thick as the traditional New England variety, you can easily make it thicker by first whisking a tbsp of flour into the bacon grease, forming a roux before proceeding on to the next steps. This is indeed the manner a traditional New England clam chowder is often made - a roux followed by liquid ingredients followed by solids. However, for as many methods that can be employed to attain the end result, there seems to be just as many opinions on the rights and wrongs of doing so.
This slightly thinner version that I deem "Mahwah" Clam Chowder, is teeming with whole clams, and keeps the dairy element of New England, while maintaining that bread-sopping "steamed-clam" broth flavor and textural profile of northern New Jersey.
1. chop onions and peel and dice potatoes. Adding more potatoes will of course thicken the final product, so I'll leave that to your discretion - 3 to 4 cups should be ample.
2. Dice bacon and add it to a large stock pot. Cook until almost crisp over medium-high heat.
3. Use a splash or two of the white wine to de-glaze the flavorful bits of bacon sticking to the bottom of the pot. (At this point, it is the perfect opportunity to pour the chef a glass as well!)
8. While the stock is cooking, you can use the momentary break to scrub the shells of the Little Neck clams thoroughly. Since you'll be putting them directly into the chowder shortly, you'll want them to be as clean as possible.
9. After stock comes to boil, lower heat and let the rolling boil subside. Stir in butter and allow it to melt completely. Slowly pour Half and Half/heavy cream blend into stock pot and gently stir.
11. Add the clam meat and let cook at a low simmer for 8 to 10 minutes.
12. Add the Little Neck clams and continue to cook another 15 minutes or so, or until clam shells open. (One note of caution - DO NOT bring to boil at the temptation to cook more quickly. Doing so will cause milk solids to clump and separate.)