Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Summer Corn Soup

My trepidation over the end of the summer crops has manifested itself in painfully obvious ways in my recipe choices lately. There was that recent Summer Vegetable Risotto, a Summer Vegetable Saute, and now I bring you a Summer Corn Soup. It's just that summer is almost over, you see, and I want to devour the last of the season while I still can.

At the farmer's market on Saturday, I searched each of the tables before I came upon one lonely stand with a box of corn still available. This soup recipe was in the August issue of Bon Appetit (which arrived in my mailbox in early-July) and I clipped it straightaway, adding it to my binder of Recipes to Try this Summer. But there were just so many of those sorts of recipes and then the summer, as it is wont to do, got away from me.

I might have just left this particular recipe in the binder with all the others that I am saving for next year, especially with corn season having passed so fleetingly this year due to the continued drought, but the cook's notes actually said, "When corn season is over, this soup is one of the dishes I miss most."

Well, doggone it, I can't just let that go. I want to know what I'll be missing come October. It's a character flaw. One of many.

So like I said, there I was on Saturday morning, groggy with too little sleep, crook-hipped from the 20-pounder tucked into the baby sling, bent precariously over a tattered box of barely-holding-on corn. The cobs were small, the husks dried and papery, and the kernels a little worse for the wear towards the ends. I might have chalked it up to bad timing and just moved on, but there wasn't a single piece of Zephyr squash left, my potato farmers weren't even at the market that day, and I was still a bit bummed over the lack of onions. Besides, they were practically giving the corn away at $0.60 per ear.

I tinkered around with the recipe a little to work with what I had on hand and to make up for the fact that I would most certainly not be using bacon in my garnish. And then, well, the recipe was a little fussy to be honest, and I was going for a more rustic texture than the strained silkiness the magazine was after, so I simplified matters considerably.

We were all very pleased with the final result and once again found ourselves with a dish that just oozed the tastes of summer. The texture was a little like a chowder with chewy bits of chopped corn kernels; the onion-carrot-celery trinity added it's pronounced flavor to that of the sweet corn and, oh, it was such a beautiful summery color, a pale orangish-yellow that seemed such a splendid way of enjoying soup in the heat of the summer. To go alongside, I sliced thick slabs of fresh whole-wheat sourdough bread and toasted it lightly on both sides before topping it with shredded Smoked Gouda and then running it under the broiler to melt the cheese. Soup just isn't soup without cheese toast to dip in and get soggy with added flavor.

For lunch the next day, I tasted the soup cold and decided I liked it just as well that way, too. 'Tis my kind of meal, to be sure. Next year, I think I shall take this soup along on a picnic with crackers and goat cheese. Actually, if I can find even a few ears of corn this weekend, I might just still do that.


SUMMER CORN SOUP (adapted from Bon Appetit, serves 6)
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 4 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs, 1/3 cup of kernels reserved for garnish, cobs broken in half and reserved
  • 2 Tbs unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp rubbed thyme (or 2 large fresh thyme sprigs)
  • 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground white pepper
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • pinch of cayenne pepper
  1. Bring milk and corncob halves (not the kernels) just to a boil in a heavy medium pot, taking care not to scald the milk. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep while sauteeing vegetables. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  3. Add onion to pan, sprinkle with salt, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Do not let onion brown.
  4. Add corn kernels (all but the 1/3 cup set aside for the garnish), carrot, celery and garlic to the pan; cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes.
  5. Add 2 cups of water, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, and milk with corncobs. Increase heat and bring to a boil. Cover partially (tilt the lid), reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove and discard the corncobs, the fresh herb sprigs, and bay leaf. Using an immersion blender (taking care to NOT turn it on until already immersed in the liquid - I speak from experience), puree soup until smooth. Conversely, soup can be pureed in a stand blender in batches, removing center piece of lid to let steam escape and covering the top with a dish towel to avoid nasty burning splashes.
  7. Season soup to taste with salt and ground white pepper.
  8. In a small bowl, combine reserved 1/3 cup of corn kernels, green onions, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.
  9. Divide among bowls, sprinkle with garnish.


Anonymous said...

I know that this recipe does not call for Chicken Stock, but what kind do you use? If you would share,I would be so greatful! I made the mushrooms last night, and I INHALED THEM! So simple, so delightful!

Sarah Beam said...

I do not use chicken stock. Ever. In recipes that call for chicken stock, I substitute vegetable broth. And though I would love to say that I make my own, what I really do is pick up the Swanson Organic Vegetarian Vegetable Broth at the supermarket.

Anonymous said...

I bought some from a sad little box at the farmers' market recently, too. (Maybe even the same one!) I just roasted mine on the grill and made roast corn salad. I wish I had made this soup instead! It looks delicious.

Anonymous said...

That would make sense considering you are vegetaraian. :) Duh! :) Nicole

alexandra's kitchen said...

I have been dying to make a corn chowder or soup. I'm waiting for it to get a little chillier out here in SoCal, but maybe I should just give it up. This looks wonderful!

Sarah Beam said...

Haleysuzanne, roasted corn salad sounds so good right now.

Alexandra, there is no need to wait for chilly weather for this soup. It's not terribly heavy, so you can actually convince yourself (if you're a justifier, like me) that this is a summer soup. Sort of.