• 8 ears of corn, kernels removed (reserve 4 of the cobs)
  • 1/2 cup celery leaves, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tablespoon EVOO - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 pound (about 8 slices) bacon, coarsely chopped
  • 3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped (about 1/4 cup)
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 quart milk
  • 1 teaspoon (or more) hot sauce, divided
  • 1 cup crab meat, picked clean (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning (optional)
  • 3 scallions, sliced on the bias

Place a large pot over medium-high heat with the four reserved corn cobs, celery leaves, water and chicken stock. Bring liquid up to a bubble and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer and reduce broth until about 1 1/2 cups remain, about 10 minutes. Keep warm until use.

While broth is simmering, place a heavy-bottomed pot over medium-low heat with 1 turn of the pan of EVOO, about 1 tablespoon. Cook the bacon until crisp and brown, 4-5 minutes. Remove bacon from pot with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the drippings from the pot and add the potato, onion, garlic, celery, red pepper, bay leaves, thyme sprigs and corn kernels to the pot. Saut over medium-high heat until vegetables begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add milk, hot sauce and corn broth and bring to a bubble. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer chowder until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

If using crab, place into a small bowl and toss with Old Bay seasoning. Serve chowder garnished with crab, a pinch of scallions and some of the crispy bacon.