Low-Fat New England Clam Chowder

2 slices bacon, chopped fine
1 onion, chopped fine
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 tsp. dried thyme
1 lb. russet potatoes, peeled, cut into 1/2” chunks
1/4 c. white wine
2 bay leaves
4 (6.5 oz.) cans chopped clams, drained, reserve juices
3/4 c. instant potato flakes*
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 (8 oz.) bottle clam juice
3/4 c. fat-free half-and-half
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
Salt and pepper

(*Instant potato flakes and buds can be used, avoid potato granules – they have a slightly metallic taste.) Cook bacon in Dutch oven over medium low heat until browned, about 10 minutes. Add onion and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add potatoes, wine, bay leaves and reserved clam juice; increase heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10-12 minutes. Whisk potato flakes, cornstarch and bottled clam juice in bowl. Microwave until mixture is thickened and smooth, about one minute. Stir potato flake mixture into pot and simmer until thickened, about three minutes. Add half-and-half, parsley and chopped clams to pot and cook until heated through, about two minutes (do not let chowder boil or it will curdle). Discard bay leaves and season with salt and pepper. Serves six.