Peel potatoes and cut into 1-inch pieces. Peel and chop the onion.
Cut the bacon in half with scissors. Heat a tall soup pot on the stove on medium high and add the bacon, cooking it until it is crisp. (Wash your hands after touching any raw bacon.) Place the cooked bacon on a paper-towel lined plate.
Keep two tablespoons of bacon grease in the pot and remove any extra with a spoon. (Discard extra grease in a container instead of pouring it down your sink.) Lower the heat and carefully add in the clam juice, so it doesn't splash. Stir in the potatoes, onions, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, thyme and bay leaf. Place the heat on high, cover the pot and bring the liquid to a boil.
Then, lower the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and let it simmer for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. (While the potatoes are cooking, you can blot the bacon and cut it into smaller pieces. Also, drain and rinse the clams.)
The potatoes are done when you can easily stick a fork in one. Using a potato masher, mash some of the cooked potatoes, leaving others in chunks.
Add milk, cream and flour to a blender and mix just until smooth. Add the mixture to the soup pot and stir. Continue stirring, cooking the soup until it's thickened and starting to boil. Stir in the clams. When the pot returns to boiling, reduce the heat and let the chowder cook 2 more minutes. Season with red pepper flakes to taste.
Serve clam chowder in bowls with bacon sprinkled on top and red pepper flakes at the table. Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to three days. It's best not to freeze this, because it includes chunks of potatoes, which will cause the soup to get dry.
This makes enough for 8 main-dish servings, but you could halve the recipe if needed. Here are my notes on ingredients:Clams: I use canned clams for convenience, price and availability. I recommend buying whole, baby clams, (affiliate link) since they're the next best thing to fresh clams. You can substitute chopped clams, but the pieces will be smaller.Draining and rinsing the canned clams gets rid of chemicals and excess sodium.Bottled clam juice: This has no additives and less salt than the juice in cans of clams. Don't worry, the chowder will be seasoned perfectly!Potatoes: Feel free to use russet, Yukon gold or red potatoes. Some people claim russet is best for chowder, but I've had success with other varieties too.Onions: Use yellow or red for a stronger flavor, or white for a more mild taste. Don't use sweet onions, because they'll make the soup too sweet.Bacon: This brings a wonderful, smoky accent to the chowder, but you can skip it if needed.Cream: We're using just enough to provide a creamy texture, without going overboard.Milk: I use 1% milk, which works really well with the cream. If you prefer a richer chowder, you can use 2% or whole milk.We love our chowder this lightened up way, though, and don't miss a thing. Flour: I use all-purpose flour to thicken the chowder. You could use gluten-free flour, if needed.