2 tablespoons butter
2 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
2 ribs celery with greens, chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
2 teaspoons hot sauce (eyeball it)
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pint half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock, from soup aisle
1 cup hashbrown-style raw shredded potatoes, on the dairy aisle at the market
2 cans whole baby clams and their juice
Deviled Ham Melts:
2 sandwich-size English muffins, split
3/4 pound boiled deli ham, chopped
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tablespoons hot sauce
3-4 tablespoons yellow mustard (eyeball it)
A handful of parsley, curly or flat
8 deli slices sharp white cheddar cheese (about 8-10 ounces)
In a medium pot over medium-high heat melt the butter. Add the bacon, onion, celery and thyme sprigs. Season with salt, pepper and hot sauce and cook five minutes. Add the flour and cook a minute more.
Add the half-and-half and stock and bring to a bubble, then stir in the potatoes and clams. Bring the soup back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are cooked and soup has thickened to coat the back of a spoon.
Heat the toaster oven or broiler, then toast the English muffins. While the muffins toast, grind the ham with paprika, hot sauce, mustard, and parsley in a food processor. Spread the ham on toasted muffins. Top each muffin half with two slices of cheddar and melt the cheese in the toaster oven or under the broiler.
Remove the thyme sprigs from the soup. The thyme leaves will have fallen off into the soup. Stir and adjust the seasonings. Pour the chowda into mugs. Serve with the deviled ham and cheese mug toppers.