Corn Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup finely chopped pancetta, bacon may be substituted for pancetta
1 large onion, cut into ½-inch dice
1 leek, cut into ½-inch dice

1 stalk celery, cut into ½-inch dice
Freshly ground black pepper
9 ear of corn
1 bay leaf
15 black peppercorns
1 sprig thyme (optional)
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 bunch chives, minced

1. In a large soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the pancetta to a paper-towel-lined plate. Add the onion, leek and celery to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes.
2. Cut the kernels from 5 ears of corn and set them aside. With the back of a knife, scrape off and collect any remaining corn pulp and juice from each cob. Snap the cobs in half.
3. Add the cobs, corn pulp and juice, the bay leaf, peppercorn and thyme, if using, to the onion mixture and cover with 1 quart of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes.
4. While the soup simmers, cut the kernels from the 4 remaining ears of corn. Set a heavy skillet or cast-iron pan over high heat. Add the oil. When hot, add the kernels from those 4 ears of corn and sauté until tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

5. When the soup is done simmering, remove the cobs, bay leaf and thyme. Bring the soup to a boil, add the reserved raw corn kernels and simmer until tender, 3 to 4 minutes.
6. In a blender, puree the soup mixture on high until smooth. Strain the soup through a fine meshed-sieve. Season with salt and a generous amount of pepper (at least 1/4 teaspoon). Set the soup over low heat and reduce to the desired consistency. Just before serving add the cooked, reserved corn kernels to the soup, and check the seasoning again. Serve the soup topped with a few pieces of pancetta and chives. Serves 4. –Jill Santopietro for The Boston Globe.