This recipe makes a big ol' 8 quart pot full, which is probably about 18 to 20 generous servings.
3-4 cups chopped clams (this would be about 10 pounds in the shell)
1 pound bay scallops
1 pound small shrimp (deveined and tails off)
1/2 pound bacon or pancetta, diced small. 1 stick unsalted butter
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 cup finely chopped celery
4 cloves of garlic (minced)
12 sprigs fresh thyme
3 bay leaves
3 pounds potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 quart heavy cream
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
3 teaspoons kosher salt or to taste
hot sauce (optional)
8 bottles Snow's Clam Juice (8oz each) If using pre-shucked clams
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
Normally I bring clams home from Washington already shucked and I freeze them. I chop them up while they are in a big brick just slightly thawed. I use the store bought clam juice when I don't have fresh whole clams.
If you are using fresh clams, transfer the clams to a large bowl or baking dish and strain the broth twice through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, being careful to strain out the sand. You should have about 8 cups of clam broth. If not, add enough water to bring the volume up to 8 cups. When the clams are cool, remove them from their shells and chop into 1/2-inch pieces. Set the clams and broth aside.
Cook the bacon or pancetta (I prefer the non- smoky taste of pancetta) in a large heavy pot over medium heat until crisp and the fat is rendered. Pour off all of the bacon fat except 2 tablespoons. Add 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, onions, and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, thyme, and bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are thoroughly wilted, about 3 minutes, being careful not to brown.
Add the potatoes and reserved clam broth or clam juice and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the broth thickens slightly and the potatoes are very tender, about 30 minutes.I like my chowder very thick so at this point I melt half a stick of butter then stir in half a cup of flour. Cook this down for a couple of minutes then add to pot of chowder and stir in a half cup of flour. Cook this down for a couple of minutes then add to pot of chowder and stir. It will get nice and thick.
Discard the thyme stems and bay leaves, stir in the cream. Bring temp up to simmer. Add clams, shrimp and scallops and simmer for about 7-8 minutes just long enough for seafood to cook. Add salt, pepper and hot sauce to taste.
If you have the time, set the chowder aside for 1 hour, covered, to allow the flavors to marry. Place the pot over low heat and slowly reheat, being careful not to let boil as this will over cook the seafood. Garnish each bowl with some chopped fresh parsley.