Summer Corn Soup

If you have followed me here for a while you know I have a few idiosyncrasies concerning soup.  First, it must be hot, and it must be soupy.  I am not a fan of thick vegetable purees masquerading as soup.  Corn is fresh and abundant now in the Farmers’ Markets and I thought I’d have another go at making a summer version of corn soup.  Corn chowder is a fine representation of fresh corn, but I wanted something lighter.  Some corn soups seem a little bland, and others are over-spiced with chiles (perhaps to compensate for said blandness?)  But this one is the perfect combination of pure corn flavor and smooth, light texture.  To boost the corn flavor, the cobs are simmered with the soup after the kernels are removed.  The aromatics are traditional:  onion, carrot, celery, bay leaf and fresh herb sprigs.  The garnishes take this soup to the realm of special.  Chives, creme fraiche, raw corn kernels, and smoky bacon add a quartet of flavor and texture to the finished soup.  It’s simple, seasonal fare at its best.

Summer Corn Soup
(4 to 6 servings
3 cups whole milk
3 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from the cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
2 tablespoons butter (1/4 stick)
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and minced
2 cups water
2 large, fresh thyme sprigs
2 fresh rosemary sprigs
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
A pinch of cayenne pepper
2 thick bacon slices, diced
1/3 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from about 1/2 ear of corn)
A handful of chives, thinly sliced
Creme fraiche (or sour cream), stirred to loosen
To make the soup:  Run the back of a knife along the stripped corn cobs to release the milky corn pulp.  Place this pulp along with the cobs and the milk in a medium, heavy saucepan.  Bring just to the boil, remove from the heat, cover and set aside.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the onion, sprinkle with a large pinch of salt, and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes (do not let the onion brown).  Add the corn kernels, carrot, celery, and garlic; cook until the vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes.  Add 2 cups water, herb sprigs, bay leaf, a few grinds of pepper, a pinch of cayenne, and milk with corn cobs.  Increase the heat to bring up to the boil.  Cover partially, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.  Discard the corn cobs, bay leaf, and herb sprigs.  Cool the soup slightly.  Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until very smooth.  (At this point you can strain the soup through a sieve for a smoother texture, if you prefer).  Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.  To make the garnish, cook the bacon in a small skillet over medium heat until just slightly crisp.  Remove to paper towels to drain.  Serve the hot soup in bowls with a swirl of creme fraiche, a sprinkling of chives, bacon bits, and a few fresh corn kernels.
(minimally adapted from Bon Appetit, recipe by Dorie Greenspan)


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