Many cream-based chowders suffer from the same problem - it's hard to taste anything but the cream.

Admittedly, all that fat is mighty delicious. But if you're going to go to the trouble of making a chowder, wouldn't it be nice to taste some of the other ingredients? So we set about making a simple clam chowder that draws on fresh herbs to marry the various flavors.

Fresh tarragon and the lightly herbaceous flavor of fresh fennel were the right choice. Both play so well with the flavors of the cream, potatoes and clams. The result is that this dish has no one flavor star, and that's as it should be. The ingredients are perfectly harmonious together.

Tarragon-Fennel Clam Chowder

Ingredients:

•6 strips thick-cut bacon, diced

•1 large yellow onion, diced

•2 cloves garlic, minced

•1 large or 2 small fennel bulbs, bulb only, diced

•2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

•2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and diced

•8-ounce bottle clam juice

•12 ounces canned or frozen clams, chopped

•2 cups half-and-half

•1 cup heavy cream

•Kosher salt and ground black pepper

•3 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

Directions:

In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, cook the bacon until crisp and it has rendered all its fat. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the bacon to a plate and set aside.

Return the saucepan of bacon fat to medium-high heat and add the onion, garlic and fennel. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, or until the onion is very tender. Stir in the flour, coating the vegetables all over. Add the potatoes, clam juice, clams, half-and-half and cream, then bring to a bare simmer.

Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the tarragon. Serve topped with the crispy bacon.

Servings: 8

Nutrition information per serving:350 calories; 240 calories from fat (69 percent of total calories); 26 g fat (14 g saturated; 0.5 g trans fats); 90 mg cholesterol; 19 g carbohydrate; 3 g fiber; 1 g sugar; 12 g protein; 410 mg sodium.

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