- Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO)
- 6 slices of bacon, chopped
- 2 russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 4 celery ribs from the heart with leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 red bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 6 cups whole milk
- 12 ounces lump crabmeat, from the seafood counter
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 1 tablespoon seafood seasoning, such as Old Bay (a palmful)
- 3 tablespoons dry Sherry
- 4 tablespoons snipped chives
- Oyster crackers
- Hot sauce
Put a medium pot over medium-high heat, add a drizzle of EVOO and the bacon and cook until the bacon is crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
Pour off a little of the bacon fat, leaving a thin, even layer. Add the potatoes, onion, celery, bell pepper and bay leaf to the pot, season with salt and pepper and cook for 7 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened. Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes. Add the chicken broth and, using a wooden spoon, scrape up all the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Add the milk, cover the pot and bring to a simmer.
Run your fingers through the crabmeat to check for shell bits, then combine with the thyme and seafood seasoning. Uncover the pot, stir in the crabmeat and simmer for 6 to 7 minutes, until the potatoes are just fork-tender and the soup has thickened. Finish the chowder with the Sherry and serve with the crispy bacon, chives, oyster crackers and hot sauce.