If you don’t have any smoked cream, you will need to make it before starting. This is a fantastic opportunity to add a little extra flavor to the clams as well, however smoking is optional.
Fill a PRO Stainless Steel Smoker Tube with un-soaked wood chips. Place the Smoker Tube onto the sear plates over the burner you intend to light. Turn that burner on to the lowest setting you can achieve, warming the grill to 200°F or less, just enough for the wood to start smoking.
Pour the cream into a shallow and flat tray. Place that tray into a larger tray that is filled with ice and water to keep the cream cold. Disposable foil trays are ideal for this. Smoke the cream for up to 2 hours, tasting periodically to ensure you get the right amount of smoke taste for you.
While the cream is being smoked, drain the water from the canned clams, reserving it for later. Smoke the clams by laying them on a parchment lined baking tray and placing them over indirect heat. Clams won’t need that long, 30 minutes to 2 hours depending on your desired smokiness and texture. Remove from the grill and set aside when done.
When the cream is smoky enough for you, remove it from the grill and set 1 cup aside for the chowder, while placing whatever is left into an airtight container for up to 1 week.
In a medium sized pot, cook the bacon until nearly crisp over medium-low heat. Then add the onion and celery, continuing to cook until translucent. Add the garlic, cooking another minute.
Stir in the flour, allowing it to cook for a minute or so. Slowly add the chicken stock, 2 to 3 tablespoons at a time, stirring until the liquid is absorbed before adding more. Continue adding stock until it’s gone. Then pour in the reserved clam juice and thyme.
Add the potatoes and bring the chowder to a simmer until the potatoes are tender. Then stir in the smoked cream and clams allowing everything get warm for serving.
Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh herbs, croutons, or maybe even some parmesan cheese.