4 large ears corn on the cob
Up to 1 1/2 cups chicken stock, divided
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/4 pound smoky lean bacon, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 pound small red potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
1/2 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
1 quart whole milk
2 pounds little neck clams, scrubbed
1 can or bottle of beer
1 lemon, sliced
A handful of chives, finely chopped
A handful of flat leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
Hot sauce, to taste
1 Crusty baguette
Heat a grill pan or outdoor grill to medium-high. Spread the corn with a thin layer of softened butter and place on the grill. Grill for 15 minutes, or until golden brown to the edges of the kernels. Cool the corn so that you can handle it. Place a small bowl, inverted, in a large mixing bowl. Steady the cobs on the smaller bowl bottom and scrape the charred kernels into the larger bowl using a sharp knife. Puree half the corn in a food processor with 1/2 cup of the chicken stock.
Heat a soup pot or heavy-bottomed skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add the EVOO, one turn of the pan. When the EVOO is hot, add the bacon and crisp for 2-3 minutes. Add the onion, potatoes, garlic, bay leaf, bell pepper and thyme. Cook to just soften the potatoes, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining chicken stock and scrape up any pan drippings. Add the corn puree and kernels, then season with salt and pepper and stir. Add the milk, bring to a bubble, then reduce the heat to simmer for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the chives and parsley.
While the chowder simmers, in a deep skillet with a lid, bring the beer to a boil with the lemon slices. Add the clams and cover the pot. Steam for 4-5 minutes, to open the shells. Discard any unopened shells.
To serve, scoop some clams into shallow bowls. Ladle the chowder over the top of the clams. Pass the hot sauce, crusty baguette and butter at the table.