Of all the wonderful things I ate this summer — chicken liver pate; stinging-nettles risotto; raw veal sausages flavored with nutmeg; eggplant carpaccio; boiled pig’s-blood sausages; raw beef pounded into mounds and drizzled with olive oil; giant briny oysters still full of seawater; thin ribbons of cured lard; fermented cheese curds; braised bone marrow; donkey-meat prosciutto — this sweet corn soup was by far the best.
It’s very simple, very light and tastes perfectly of corn. To get it right, you’ve got to use the corniest corn imaginable: ripped off the plant, rushed across the fields, hurled into the kitchen and shucked and cooked while it’s still warm with sunlight. Or else fresh from the farmers’ market and cooked that very day. Corn loses its flavor quickly, and one-hour-old corn is very different from one-day-old corn. You can still eat one-day-old corn, of course, but not in this soup. This soup needs corn.
Serve it in small bowls with a chilled rose wine on the lovely wooden patio of your New England summer house (or dorm room). Serve it soon, because corn is at its best right now and won’t be around much longer. Serve it and think of summer and drink the whole bottle of rose so you won’t have to think of winter when there won’t be any corn. And make loud, grandiose promises to eat more corn in the meantime. More corn!
Sweet Corn Soup
(Adapted from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Cafe Cookbook)
Active time: 30 minutes. Actual time: 45 minutes. Serves 6 as a first-course.
6 ears of fresh sweet corn
4 tbsp butter
2 cups water
1 cup heavy cream
1 small hot pepper, such as Hungarian yellow, pasilla or jalapeno
(Equipment: fine-mesh sieve, blender, paper bag.)
(1) Shuck the ears of corn and remove the kernels from the cob by running a sharp knife length-wise down all four sides of the cob. Melt the butter over medium heat in a large saucepan and add corn kernels and a large pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, for five minutes.
(2) Add the water, stir, and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. (The water doesn’t need to come to a boil.)
(3) Roast the pepper whole by resting it directly on a burner turned to “medium” on the stovetop for two minutes, turning the pepper as the skin begins to blacken and peel. (Alternatively, you can blacken the skin on a grill, under a very hot broiler, or in a very hot oven.) Place the pepper in a paper bag, crumple the bag shut and let steam for 15 minutes.
(4) When the corn is ready, pour the contents of the saucepan into a blender (you may have to work in batches) and puree well. Strain the pureed corn through a mesh sieve to extract all the liquids but leave behind the starchy, fibrous solids. Stir the heavy cream into the pale-yellow liquid corn soup.
(5) When ready to serve, reheat the soup over low heat, but do not boil. Remove the pepper from the paper bag and peel or rub off the blackened skin. Remove the seeds from inside the pepper and chop the remaining flesh into small bits. Check the soup for salt, pour into small bowls and add a few bits of chopped roasted pepper to each bowl. Enjoy.