Christmas Eve Clam Chowder

We have served this every Christmas Eve for as long as I can remember.

1 1/8 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cup potatoes, diced ½ inch
1 1/2 cup celery, diced ½ inch
1 1/2 cup onion, diced ½ inch
1 1/2 cup green pepper, diced ½ inch
1 1/2 cup leeks, diced ½ inch
1 1/8 cup chopped clams, undrained
1 1/8 tsp coarse ground black pepper
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons salt
1 1/8 tablespoon whole thyme
9 bay leaves
2 shakes Tabasco
1 1/8 cup sherry wine 
3 cups water
1 1/8 cup clam juice 

3 quarts half-and-half

Combine melted butter and flour in oven-proof container and bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes. (Don't try to skip this method, it doesn't taste the same.) In large saucepan, combine remaining ingredients except half-and-half. Simmer until potatoes are thoroughly cooked.

(At this point you can refrigerate it and then reheat and finish the next day. Christmas Eve is a hectic time for the cook of the house.)

Stir butter-flour mixture into chowder and stir until thick. Mixture will be slightly less thick than cookie dough. Remove chowder from heat. Stir in half-and-half until blended. Heat to serving temperature, stirring occasionally.  I usually make plenty for Christmas eve and then freeze the rest for later in January. 

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