4 dozen little neck or cherry stone clams, scrubbed
4 thick slices bacon, chopped
1 large onions, cut into 1/4 inch dice
1-1/2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch dice
3 tablespoons flour
1-1/2 cups heavy cream
1-1/2 cups whole milk
1 bundle of thyme
2 bay leaves
1 to 2 shakes hot sauce, optional
Extra virgin olive oil
Place the clams and 1 cup of water in a large pot. Cover and place over a high heat; cook the clams for 6 to 7 minutes. Uncover and remove the open clams. If some clams haven’t opened yet, cover the pot again and continue cooking the clams for another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and discard any clams that did not open. Strain the liquid from the pot through a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter, and reserve.
Set some whole clams aside for garnish. Coarsely chop the remaining clams and reserve.
Drizzle a few drops of olive oil into the bottom of the clam pot and toss in the bacon. Bring the pan to a medium heat. When the bacon gets brown and crispy, toss the onions in and season lightly with salt. Cook the onions until they are very soft and clear, 7 to 8 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook for another 5 minutes.
Sprinkle the flour over the onions and potato mixture and stir to combine. Gradually whisk in the reserved clam juice until there are no flour lumps, then whisk in the milk and heavy cream and add bay leaves and thyme. Taste for seasoning and adjust if needed. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes.
Toss in the reserved clams. Taste and re-season as needed and add hot sauce (optional).