2 to 2.5 lbs clams, preferably quahogs, littlenecks or cherrystones
1/2 to 1 cup white wine (optional)
4 strips bacon, sliced in lardons
1 large leek, sliced
2 ribs celery, sliced
2 medium potatoes (or 1 large), diced
½ bunch Kale (about 4-5 big leaves) de-ribbed and sliced into ribbons
½ fennel bulb, diced (optional)
2 Tbsp Bobbie's Boat Sauce, Classic or Hot
optional : homemade chicken stock
optional : lemon wedge for serving
for the devil's croutons:
3 cups oyster crackers
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp Bobbie's Boat Dust
Clean clams : soak your clams in a bowl of cold, salted water for about 20 minutes ahead of cooking. Some people swear by adding cornmeal or black pepper to the water for maximum efficiency, but it's up to you.
Turn the oven to 300. Melt butter, stir in Bobbie's Boat Dust, and drizzle over oyster crackers in a bowl. Bake on a lined sheet-pan for 10-12 minutes, then set aside for serving.
Lift clams from soaking water and rinse off in a colander, then place in a big pot with 3 cups of water, plus wine (if using). Slice the dark green parts of the leek and add to the pot. Bring to a boil covered, and cook until all the clams have opened, 5-8 minutes. You want them to open up, but avoid overcooking. Discard any clams that don't open. Remove clams and let them cool. Strain and reserve the broth using a mesh strainer and cheesecloth. When cool enough to handle, remove clams from their shells and set aside, catching any liquor that they release.
Pour the strained clam broth back a pot and taste for salinity. If it's really salty, you may want to dilute with water, or use half clam broth / half chicken stock when its ready to be employed.
In a heavy pot, render the fat from the bacon without burning it. When cooked to your liking, set the bacon aside but leave the fat.
Cook leeks in bacon fat. (alternatively, you may skip the bacon and cook in olive oil).
When leeks are soft, add the celery, potatoes, kale and Bobbie's Boat Sauce. Combine thoroughly before adding 4 cups of the clam broth, or clam/chicken broth combo. Bring to a boil, cover, and let simmer until potatoes are cooked through, 5-10 minutes.
Meanwhile, give the cooled clams a course chop while soup is cooking,
When potatoes are cooked thoroughly but still have their shape, add chopped clams. Adjust seasoning (lemon juice, more boat sauce, salt and pepper if needed) and serve with oyster crackers and lemon wedges.