4ears of cornhusked and kernels stripped, cobs and kernels reserved
salt and pepper to tasteI used black pepper, Greenspan likes white
Possible garnishes in addition to corn kernels:
crispy bacon or caviar
chopped roasted chile peppers or smoked Spanish paprika
sour cream or crème fraîche
sliced green onions
Set aside 1/4 of the corn kernels for garnish.
Place the 4 stripped corn cobs into a saucepan and cover with the milk. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat off. Let the cobs steep in the hot milk while you work on the soup.
Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven (I used 7 qt). Add the onion with a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until the onions softens--you do not want color on the onion. Add the celery and carrot with another pinch of salt and cook another 5 minutes. Then add the corn and garlic and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until the vegetables are soft.
Add the water along with the cobs in their steeping milk to the Dutch oven. Also add the herbs (preferably tied for easy retrieval) and a large pinch of salt, to taste. Bring to a boil and then cover, lowering the heat, to maintain a gentle simmer for 20 minutes.
While the soup cooks, prep your garnishes. The reserved corn kernels need to be cooked, as does the bacon if you are using it. Likewise, roast the peppers in the oven on broil if you are using them.
After the 20 minutes are up, taste the soup for salt and pepper. Remove and discard the cobs, thyme sprigs, rosemary sprigs and bay leaf. Puree the soup to your desired smoothness (I like a more rustic, chunky puree, I never put soups through a strainer but you can if you want). Reheat the soup and taste again for salt and pepper--or acid if necessary (I don't think mine needed any but I would not hesitate to add cider vinegar if it needed some oomph). Serve, topped with garnishes, especially lots of corn.