Corn and Potato Soup with Rosemary

This is a delicate, fresher version of the standard corn chowder, made with a thoughtful rolling out of ingredients.  First, I use corn cobs for a quick broth, cutting and cooking the bacon and onions separately; I reserve the crisped bacon to add at the end.  Then, I cook the potatoes in the corn broth, adding milk only after they’ve released their starch and flavor. The final–and most important step–is to add fresh rosemary (NOT optional) and the reserved corn kernels at the very end, under only enough heat to come alive.

corn-potato-rosemary-soup

 
10 cups water
6 ears corn, kernels removed (you should have 4 – 5 cups) and cobs reserved
2 bay leaves
Wedge of small onion
1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon salt
½ pound bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch strips
¾ pound potatoes (about 3 small), cut into ½-inch pieces
1 ½ cups chopped onion (about 1 medium)
1 tablespoon butter
2 sprigs rosemary
1 cup whole milk
Fresh cracked black pepper

Place water, corn cobs, bay leaves, onion wedge, and 1 teaspoon salt in a large pot over high heat.  Bring to a quick boil, then reduce to simmer until the stock tastes sweet and strongly of corn, 30 to 40 minutes.  Skim off any foam that rises to the stop; it will cloud the broth.  Once the stock is done, fish out the cobs, onion, and bay leaf.  You’ll have about 6 cups of stock.

Meanwhile, render the bacon in a separate pan over low heat, until crisp.  Remove bacon from pan and reserve.  Discard all but 2 teaspoons of bacon fat in the pan.  Add butter and chopped onion and cook over medium heat until mostly soft, about 10 minutes.

When the stock is done, add the bacon and onions to the pot, carrying along all the juices from the pan.  Add the potatoes.  Bring to a quick boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are just tender.  Add corn kernels and bacon and bring stock back to a simmer just until the kernels have lost their starchiness, about 1 minute more.  Turn off heat and add rosemary.  Add the milk and remaining salt and a couple turns of fresh black pepper.