Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the chowder: In a soup
pot or a Dutch oven
, heat the EVOO over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisp
, about 5 minutes. Add the corn
and cook until the kernels are lightly browned at the edges, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the seafood seasoning, thyme, garlic, celery, bay leaves, chiles and onions
, and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the chicken stock and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer
, then turn off the heat.
For the croutons: Arrange the English muffin cubes on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. Toast in the oven until light golden. Melt
the butter with the hot sauce
. Place the croutons in a bowl and toss with the parsley, seafood seasoning and the butter
mixture. Return to the rack set over the baking sheet and bake until deeply golden. Let cool.
To finish the chowder
: Place the clams and beer
in a large pot with a tight-fitting lid, and season with sea salt and pepper. Cover and bring to a boil, then cook at a rapid simmer until the clams open, 3 to 5 minutes. Discard any unopened clams.
Divide the clams and the cooking liquid among 4 shallow bowls. Ladle the corn chowder over top and garnish
with the croutons. Serve with hot sauce.
Cook's Notes: You can make the chowder base up to 5 days ahead. Cool and store in the refrigerator, then reheat over a medium flame. Buy the clams within 48 hours of serving and cook them just before you're ready to serve.
You can store the croutons in an airtight container or in a foil pouch until ready to use.