Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the Canadian bacon and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a plate.
Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, the onion, celery, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to the pot and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Add 1 1/2 cups water, the reserved clam juice (about 1 1/2 cups), the potatoes and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
Whisk the milk, cream and flour in a bowl until the flour is dissolved. Slowly add the mixture to the pot, stirring constantly. While stirring, bring the soup to a simmer (do not boil). Reduce the heat to medium low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add the clams and simmer 2 minutes more. Discard the bay leaf. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Right before serving, stir in the bacon. Serve with the hot sauce.
Per serving: Calories 312; Fat 8g (Saturated 2g); Cholesterol 66mg; Sodium 510mg; Carbohydrate 33g; Fiber 3g; Protein 27g
Photograph by Yunhee Kim
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine