1 1/2 cups heavy cream (or up to 2 cups, if desired)
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives, for garnish
1. Heat a 4- to 6-quart heavy-bottomed pot over low heat, and add the salt pork. Once it has rendered a few tablespoons of fat, increase the heat to medium and cook until the salt pork is a crisp golden brown. Remove from pot; set aside.
2. Add the butter, onions, garlic, celery, thyme, and bay leaves. Sautť, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the onions are softened but not browned, about 10 minutes.
3. Add the potatoes and the strained clam broth. The broth should just barely cover the potatoes; if it doesnít, add enough water to cover them. Increase the heat, and bring to a boil. Cover, and cook the potatoes vigorously until they are soft on the outside but still firm in the center, about 10 minutes. If the broth hasnít thickened lightly, smash a few potatoes against the side of the pot, and cook 1 to 2 minutes more to release the starch.
4. Remove pot from the heat, and stir in the diced clams and the cream. Season to taste. If you are not serving the chowder within the hour, let it cool a bit, then refrigerate; cover the chowder after it has completely chilled. Otherwise, let it sit at room temperature for up to 1 hour, allowing the flavors to meld.
5. When ready to serve, reheat the chowder over low heat; donít let it boil. Ladle into cups or bowls, making sure that the clams, potatoes, and onions are evenly divided. Sprinkle with parsley, chives, and reserved salt-pork cracklings.
Makes 10 cups