A hearty, delicious way to start a meal, this clam and potato chowder is seafoodâ€™s answer to chicken noodle soup.
Fill a large high-sided saucepan with the 4 cups cold water. Set over high heat, and bring to a boil. Add clams, cover with lid slightly askew, and cook 5 minutes. Remove any clams that have opened, and transfer to a bowl. Continue cooking clams, removing them as they open, for 5 to 10 minutes more. Discard any clams that have failed to open after this time. Strain cooking liquid through a cheesecloth-lined sieve. Set aside.
Wipe out saucepan; return to medium heat. Add bacon; cook until golden and crisp, about 7 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon from saucepan, and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, leaving the fat in the pan.
Add onions and garlic to saucepan, and cook in bacon fat until soft and translucent, stirring often so they do not brown, about 5 minutes. Add 3 1/2 cups of reserved clam broth and potatoes. Bring to a simmer, and cook until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.
Roughly chop clams. Add clams, wine, and an additional 1/2 cup broth to saucepan. Season with salt and pepper. Heat through, and serve. Keep chowder, covered, in the refrigerator 1 to 2 days.