Conch Chowder, White

2 1/2 cups water (may substitute all or part with clam juice and chicken broth)
1/2 pound conch, ground (or 20 to 30 fresh clams)
2 strips thick sliced bacon
1 medium yellow onion. chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 tablespoons flour
1 clove garlic, minced
3 medium red potatoes. peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups half & half
1/4 cup Sherry (optional)

Cook bacon in large saucepan until crisp. Remove bacon to paper towels, leave dripping in pan. Crumble bacon when cool enough to handle.
Add onion, celery, flour, garlic, and potatoes to bacon drippings. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, about 2-3 minutes or until veggies are crisp and tender. Remove from heat.
Stir in 1 1/2 cups of water, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a medium low and simmer uncovered until potatoes are tender, about 10 minutes.
Stir in half & half and ground conch, heat through over medium heat stirring occasionally. Throw out bay leaf. Stir in bacon and Sherry (optional). Serve with traditional Oyster Crackers.