I love summer sweet corn, but sometimes I want it in a form more elegant than boiled, roasted, grilled, or in a salad. This recipe is a mash-up of three different ideas from three different sources, and is about as simple as you can get.
The basic soup has only four ingredients: the kernels from five ears of fresh corn, one diced onion, two tablespoons of butter, and four and a quarter cups of corn stock (made by simmering leftover corn cobs, suggested by Michael Ruhlman, but water can be used in the place of stock).
I melted the butter, added the onions and water, and simmered for ten minutes.
I added the corn stock, brought it to a boil, added the corn kernels, reduced to a simmer, and cooked for five minutes. I let the mixture cool a bit, then puréed it with a stick blender (you can also purée it in batches in a regular blender).
I passed the purée through a fine mesh strainer to remove all of the skins (and any stray silk that remained), seasoned with salt and white pepper, and kept the soup warm – but not hot – on the stove.
Before I removed the corn from the cobs, I made smoked paprika oil by adding a tablespoon of smoked paprika to a half cup of grapeseed oil. I warmed the oil over extremely low heat for fifteen minutes, then let the mixture infuse for an hour before straining it through a coffee filter.
This is a dish of contrasts: warm soup against cold sorbet, sweet corn against spicy jalapeño and smoky paprika, and the crunchy garlic against the smooth soup and sorbet. It’s a great summer appetizer that can become a full meal with a few simple variations: add lump crab meat or a toasted garlic crouton to change the flavor profile.
Try this soup now, while the corn is still sweet instead of starchy. If you wait too long, you’ll end up with chowder.
Thanks to Chip Denman for the soup recipe and Mark Swain for the jalapeño and paprika oil garnishes.