Wash and scrub clams well to remove exterior sand then place in a large soup pot with boiling water. Add garlic and 2 bay leaves. Cover and steam over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes until the clams open. Discard any that do not open. Remove clams from shells, roughly chop, and set aside. Strain the broth through cheesecloth as an added precaution to remove any grit.
Melt butter in the soup pot, saute potatoes, celery and onion for 5 minutes until soft and well coated. Add salt pork, thyme, and remaining bay leaves. Make a roux by sprinkling in flour and stirring until dissolved. Add the reserved clam broth, bring to a boil, stirring constantly to avoid lumps. Continue to simmer, stirring, for 15 minutes until thickened.
Add the chopped clams, bottled clam juice and sea salt. Pour in the cream and milk, cover, and cook until heated through. Add the fish fillets and continue to simmer another 5 minutes until the fish is opaque. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with oyster crackers or crusty bread.
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