Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring frequently, until softened and beginning to brown, 3 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle flour, thyme, salt, pepper and bay leaf over the vegetables and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add clam juice (or seafood stock) and milk; bring to a gentle boil, stirring constantly.Advertisement
Stir in potatoes and bring just to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, 12 to 15 minutes.
Add clams and cook, stirring frequently, until cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Serve topped with bacon and chives, if desired.
Tip: Check the label carefully when using clam juice because the sodium can vary dramatically among different brands. We test with Bar Harbor clam juice, with only 120 mg sodium per 2-ounce serving.
To make ahead: Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days, slowly reheat over medium-low or microwave on Medium power.
1 1/2 fat, 1 1/2 starch, 1 lean protein, 1/2 vegetable