8 ears fresh corn, shucked
8 strips bacon, chopped
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
1 fresh bay leaf
6 cups milk
3 medium new potatoes (about 1 1⁄2 lbs.),
peeled and cut into 1⁄2" cubes
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1⁄4 cup thinly sliced fresh basil, for garnish
1. Working over a large bowl, slice the corn kernels off the cob, scraping the cob with the knife to extract the flavorful juices. Halve 5 of the bare corn cobs crosswise, discarding the rest. Set corn and cobs aside.
2. Heat the bacon in a 6-qt. pot over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 12 minutes. Reserve 3 tbsp. bacon for garnish, leaving the remaining bacon in the pot. Add butter, thyme, garlic, celery, onions, and bay leaf. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 6 minutes. Add the reserved corn kernels and cobs, milk, and potatoes. Cover, bring chowder to a boil, reduce heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are tender, about 25 minutes. Skim any foam from the surface of the soup.
3. Discard the cobs and bay leaf; transfer 1 1⁄2 cups of the soup to a blender, and purée. Stir purée into the chowder to thicken it. Season with salt and pepper and serve garnished with reserved bacon and basil.