This signature chowder has become very popular at Fire. We serve it with wild Alaskan halibut, manila clams, and sautéed spinach; it is also delicious with sautéed diver scallops. The result is a rich, thick, and spicy chowder with a great kick!
— Douglas Katz, executive chef-owner at Fire Food and Drink, Cleveland, OH
A lardon is a thin strip or small cube of pork fat used for flavoring. Heat the bacon in a small sauté pan over medium heat with the olive oil until the fat renders off and the bacon is just crisp, 6-8 minutes. Remove from the pan, and drain the fat on a paper towel-lined plate.
Melt the butter in a medium-sized stockpot over medium heat. Add the finely chopped onion, 1 of the bay leaves, and 1 sprig of the thyme. Season with salt, to taste, stir, and sauté for 5 minutes.
Add the white wine and clams. Steam until the clams open, 5-7 minutes, depending on their size. Drain and reserve the liquid. Clean the clams by squeezing them, and then rough chop the clams. Chill until ready to continue.
Heat the olive oil in a medium-sized saucepot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the celery and the remaining onion. Sweat over medium heat until tender, 6-8 minutes. Season with salt and cayenne, to taste.
Meanwhile, make a fresh herb sachet by placing the remaining bay leaves, 10 peppercorns, and remaining thyme in a culinary sachet or piece of cheesecloth and secure it closed with a piece of culinary twine. When the celery and onion are tender, add the herb sachet. Add the flour and stir to coat the vegetables. Deglaze the pan by adding the reserved clam juice and scraping the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced by ½, 6-10 minutes.
Add the corn, corn cobs, reserved clams, and heavy cream, bring to a simmer, and cook until all the vegetables are tender. Remove the corn cobs. Season with salt, to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside.
In a separate medium-sized pot, parboil the potatoes: Place them in 4-6 cups of cold, salted water and bring the water to a boil over high heat. Then, cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and add to the chowder. (The potatoes should be added immediately before serving, just before you reheat the chowder to a simmer. If you are making the chowder ahead, stop before you add the potatoes.)
Heat the chowder to a simmer. Serve garnished with the bacon lardons and chopped tarragon.