The clams give up all their essence in this heavy tarragon clam chowder. Potato lends body to the briny yet light broth from the clams, giving this soup its creamy texture. Crème fraiche ensures the final touch. It's a slurpable ode to golden child.
Line a sieve with cheesecloth and put over a large bowl. Thoroughly rinse the clams under running water, then put them into a large pot. Pour in the water and cover with a lid. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until the clams open, about 5 min.
Discard any clams that don’t open. Remove the remaining clams with a slotted spoon to a second large bowl. Then carefully remove the clam meat and reserve. Strain the cooking liquid through the prepared sieve and set aside
Put the pot back on the stove over medium heat. Add in the butter to melt, and then lower the heat to medium-low. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, until a golden color, 7-8 mins. Using a slotted spoon, remove the bacon and set aside on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess fat.
Add the celery, garlic, and smoked paprika to the remaining bacon fat in the pot and cook, stirring, until tender, 7-8 mins.
Add the potatoes, wine, bottled clam juice, and bay leaf and continue cooking until the potatoes have just started to soften, about 5 min. Add the reserved clam cooking liquid just to cover the potatoes. Then cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are soft, 10-15 mins. While the potatoes cook, chop the clam meat into about ¼-in. pieces.
When the potatoes are soft, pour in the cream and add the chopped clams and bacon. Stir in black pepper to taste. Return to a simmer and then turn off the heat. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
Ladle between bowls and serve with chopped tarragon on top.
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