This dish is one that Grid and I worked on the other day for submission to a Food52 contest for their best "Corn Off the Cob" recipe. At first, I thought of submitting a succotash, which is a favorite summer dish of mine, but I've always wanted to work up a recipe for a creamy sweet corn soup, and this contest provided a perfect excuse to do just that.
For years I've been a fan of ethereally light and sweet corn soups we've found at some of our favorite restaurants, you know the kind, pale yellow and silky smooth, but light and fresh like corn straight from the cob. Having done some research into the subject, and from conversations with chef friends, I came to learn that the key to getting the purest corn flavor out of a soup like this is to use little if any cream or milk. As is the case with many things, cream, while adding a fabulous mouthfeel, actually deadens and masks the flavor of other ingredients. At first learning this news I was aghast….how would I make a creamy, silky smooth soup without using cream?
By using butter, of course!
It turns out that butter provides the same kind of luscious mouthfeel as cream, but is much better at playing with other ingredients, and giving them their due in a dish. Making this soup is a two step process, but is actually quite easy. The first step is to make a corn stock from the stripped cobs, a bunch of aromatics and some water.
After a few minutes spent whirring around in a blender, and a quick pass through a fine mesh strainer, you are left with an outrageously good soup, silken and rich but light…the essence of a perfect cob of corn.
Cheers – Steve
- 12 ears of sweet corn on the cob
- 1 small fennel bulb, fronds removed and reserved, bulb washed, cored and roughly chopped
- 2 small leeks, pale green and white parts only, washed and sliced
- 4 large shallots, peeled and sliced
- 1 sweet onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and split
- 8 sprigs fresh thyme, divided
- 8 sprigs fresh parsley, divided
- 8 sprigs fresh oregano, divided
- 6 sprigs fresh lemon thyme, divided
- 4 sprigs fresh tarragon, divided
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon fennel seed
- 2 teaspoons coriander seed
- 2 sticks of butter
- 1 bunch chives
- kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
For the Corn Stock:
- Cut the kernels from the corn cobs and place them in a bowl for later use. Using the back of your knife, scrape all the pulp and milk remaining on the cobs into the bowl with the kernels. Cut the cobs into 2-3 pieces and toss them into a medium sized stock pot.
- To the stock pot, add the onion, leeks, shallots, garlic, chopped fennel bulb, coriander, fennel seed, and half of each of the herb sprigs. Cover the stock pot ingredients with water, season with salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer the stock for about 45 minutes. Strain the stock, keeping the liquid and discarding the solids.
- Measure out 8 cups of the corn stock and add it to a large saucepan with the reserved corn kernels, the balance of the herb sprigs (tied into a bundle), and 1 stick of the butter (keep any extra stock on hand in case you want to thin your soup a bit later). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to simmer the soup for 30 minutes.
- Remove the herb bundle, then puree the soup in a blender in batches, adding the remaining stick of butter in pieces, a little with each batch. Puree on high for at least 2-3 minutes per batch to make sure the kernels are well pulverized and the butter is fully emulsified with the soup.
- Return each batch to a clean saucepan, pouring through a fine mesh strainer in the process. Season to taste with salt and pepper, adding back more of the reserved stock if the soup is too thick for your liking. If your soup still doesn't look completely emulsified and smooth after its time in the blender, hit it here with a stick blender to finish the job. Serve sprinkled with chopped chives and a touch of reserved fennel frond.