Add about 3 cups of water to a large pot, then add clams—cover and place over high heat. Cook clams for about 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, stir the clams, and continue cooking for another 3-4 minutes or until the clams open up.
Turn off the heat and discard any clams that have not opened. Strain the liquid from the pot through a mesh strainer lined with a coffee filter and reserve juice to use later. Coarsely chop the clams and set them aside.
How to Make Clam Chowder
In a large pot over medium heat, cook bacon until crispy. Drain bacon on paper towels while leaving the bacon fat in the pot - about 1-2 tablespoons.
Next, add butter to melt, followed by onions and celery, and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, thyme, bay leaf, Creole seasoning, and flour, and cook for about a minute or until the garlic is fragrant and the flour turns pale golden.
Pour in reserved clam juice, cream, and half-and-half while whisking constantly until combined. Stir in the potatoes and bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Add chopped clams meat and cook until heated through (about 2 minutes). Season chowder with salt and pepper to taste. If the chowder is too thick, gradually stir in more half-and-half or clam juice until you reach your preferred consistency. Adjust seasonings to taste.
Garnish with chopped bacon and chives and serve immediately with crusty bread or cornbread.
You can substitute 12 ounces of canned clams. You can also use oysters or scallops if you can't get clams.
Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.