If you want to make this soup in Paris, you've got to get yourself a corn dealer. And, to my knowledge, there's only one.
I'm not talking corn-in-the-can which is often sprinkled on the popular 'Salade Californienne' that graces the menus of trendy bistros. Or pre-husked corn wrapped in Saranwrap and set out for people to point and giggle at in supermarkets. I'm talking: fresh corn, in the husk, just picked.
It may sound crazy, if you haven't stopped to consider it before, but there is no such thing as fresh corn in any classic French recipe. "Corn is for pigs!" as one French Chef told me long ago. And considering that I am a little piggy when it comes to fresh corn, I'm happy to hog it all to myself. Oink.
I did get a chuckle over last month's French cooking publication, Elle à la Table, because they published a recipe for BBQ'd corn on the cob and made a point of emphasizing that Americans really like to eat it that way. Yes, we do. So maybe corn is getting a second chance in France? Yeah, and maybe pigs will fly and French kids will demand PB&J's with the crusts cut off. But, you never know, stranger things have happened.
The recipe for this soup is an adaptation from the 1 Michelin Star restaurant in San Francisco, Boulevard, created by chef & owner, Nancy Oaks. What makes the soup special is that she uses a corn stock created with the cobs to flavor the soup. Chef Oaks often tops this soup with lobster and always serves it alongside delicious mini crab cake souffles. For more recipes by Chef/Owner Nancy Oaks and Chef de Cuisine Pamela Mazzola check out their awesome new cookbook:
If you're really jonesing for corn, my dealer is on the tiny rue Poncelet in the 17th arrondisement. He's the guy that sells vegetables from a tiny stand. And he doesn't carry corn all the time – just so's you know So, don't get your hopes up for a regular fresh corn fix!
Sweet White Corn Soup adapted from restaurant Boulevard, by Nancy Oaks & Pamela Mazzola
Note: Chef Oaks and Chef Mazzola give 2 detailed ways to make this soup. I have modified their recipe slightly and I would encourage corn soup lovers to purchase their cookbook just to read their suggestions and inventions. And for the heavenly crab souffles that go alongside!
Serves 6-8 people
10 ears white corn, husked
2 onions chopped
3 large leeks chopped (white part only)
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
4 thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
10 black pepper corns
4 quarts water
3 Tablespoons olive oil
5 Tablespoons unsalted butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Cut the corn off the 10 cobs and reserve. To make the corn stock: in a stock pot add the garlic, 1/2 the chopped onions, 1/3rd the chopped leeks, corn cobs plus any milk you can scrape from the cobs, thyme sprigs, bay leaf, pepper corns and 4 quarts of water. Bring to a boil then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain the stock and reserve.
In another large pot sautée the remaining onions and leeks until soft but not browned, about 7 minutes. Add 8 cups of the corn stock and return to a boil. Add all but 1 cup of the corn kernels (reserve for garnish) and sauté for another 5 minutes until corn is just cooked and still a little crunchy. If the corn is over cooked, it will loose it's flavor. Purée the soup with the butter in a food processor until smooth, in batches. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain (if you want to, sometimes I like it a little on the rustic side). Refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made a few days ahead.
To serve: reheat the soup and place in bowls. Sauté the remaining corn kernels in butter with a little salt and pepper and spoon over. Garnish with chopped chives, crab, or lobster.