Chilled Corn and Coconut Soup
In season now: this chilled sweet corn soup is the most delicious way to celebrate summer.
Admittedly, I get pretty chuffed about any in-season vegetable, but August’s sweet corn harvest probably makes my top three most excitable culinary moments (don’t at me next month when I gush about butternut squash.)
The back story to my corn devotion is that I grew up in Guelph, which was then a small, university city bordered by farmers’ fields. Literally one block from the three-bedroom, two-garage suburban home of my youth, was a dairy farm. And across from that, a corn field. And next to that, another crop farm. And so on and so forth.
Every August, when corn season began, my dad would purchase a daily dozen for our boiled-and-buttered pleasure. My family became serious corn aficionados, understanding varieties and waiting for our favourites to harvest: Peaches and Cream, Silver Queen, Honey Select… Ontario grows about a dozen or so sweet corn varieties, in case you were wondering.
Anyway, in a flush of wild excitement a few summers ago, overcome by euphoric delight at the sight of the first crop, I mistakenly bought a few dozen. Anyone who knows corn, knows what an amateur move that is. Cobs begin to lose their sugar as soon as they’re picked, increasing the starch, and toughening the kernels, so it’s best eaten day-of. There was clearly no way I was going to be able to plow through 24 corn cobs, no matter how elegantly I have perfected my typewriter-style of devouring corn.
So I needed a solution – stat. Being that I am also a soup devotee, I found my answer in this silky smooth, deeply delicious, and brightly flavoured corn and coconut soup. Served chilled and brightened by lime, it’s exquisite on hot summer nights.
One of the many fabulous things about corn is how well it plays with other flavours. I leave this pretty pure to the recipe, but if you are so inspired, feel free to adapt it to other regional flavours.
- Southwest/Mexican: add a spoonful or two of chipotle in adobo sauce to the soup while cooking and garnish with charred kernels, avocado and pickled red onion.
- Indian: add a Tablespoon of curry powder while cooking and garnish with sliced chili pepper, cilantro and fresh lime wedges.
- French: use thyme or rosemary during cooking and garnish with crème fraiche and crab or lobster meat
- Italian: swap lime for lemon and garnish with fresh basil and seeded, chopped tomato
Chilled Corn and Coconut Soup
To get the eye-rolling, toe-curling results I get from this soup, there are two things I strongly advise you to adhere: one, you must strain this after blending. I have tried both ways, and strained is far superior. Simply pureeing without straining still leaves a fine “chunkiness” to the soup thanks to the fibrous outer kernels. This is not what you want. You want a buttery smooth puree. I’ll grant you it’s a tedious process to strain through a fine mesh sieve, but it only takes a few minutes, and the results are definitely worth it.
Two; as noted above, use corn as fresh as possible. Ideally bought right from the farm or farmer’s market so you know it was picked that morning. I don’t even bother with the shucked cobs wrapped in cellophane at the grocery store. In fact, I don’t bother with grocery store cobs at all, they’re almost always at least a few days old, and the flavour has faded to a bland, starchy nothingness. If you don’t have access to fresh picked corn, you’re better off buying frozen, which is flash-frozen as soon as it comes in from the fields.
Makes: about 3 litres
Chef level: moderate
- ¼ cup butter, preferably grass fed
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 6 corn cobs, shucked and cobs broken in half and reserved
- 1 cup red onion, diced
- 2 Tbsp fresh garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cayenne pepper, preferably yellow, sliced
- 12 cups water
- 2 organic vegetable bouillon cubes
- The peel of one lime
- Juice of one lime
- ¼ cup salt (trust me, you will need more than you think)
- 2 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 Tbsp white miso (don’t skip this!)
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1, 400 mL can of full fat coconut milk, preferably organic and best quality
How You Make It:
- Into a large soup pot, warm butter and oil over medium low heat until butter has melted.
- Meanwhile, shuck the corn: laying each cob on its side, gently slice off the kernels in one sheet. Laying the cob on its side, as opposed to standing it upright and running your knife down the cob is much neater as the kernels don’t go flying everywhere. Once all six cobs have been shucked, break each cob in half and reserve.
- Once the butter is melted and frothy, add onion and garlic, stirring to combine, and season lightly with salt and pepper.
- Once softened, but not browned, add the cayenne pepper and cook for a minute to soften.
- Add the all the kernels from the freshly shucked cobs and paprika and stir to combine.
- Add the water, lime peel, miso, bouillon cubes, and broken cobs. Stir to combine and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling reduce to medium low and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Test for salt and pepper, you will need more, adjust to your liking, and add in lime juice.
- Turn off heat and allow to cool slightly.
- Remove the lime peel and broken cobs and discard.
- Using an immersion/hand blender, blend on high speed for at least three minutes until well pureed and smooth.
- Take a second stock pot or very large bowl (I think a pot is easier and sturdier) and place a fine mesh sieve across the rim of the pot. In sections, pour in the soup, stirring with a spatula and pressing on solids. What should be left behind is a fairly dry, ball of husks. The new pot should have a buttery, silky smooth puree. Rinse the sieve and repeat this procedure until you have strained all the soup. It should be about three repeats. Again, tedious, but necessary. Pour yourself a glass of wine and deal with it.
- Once the soup is nicely strained, add the can of coconut milk and stir to combine. Allow to cool completely, and store, tightly sealed in the fridge until ready to use. This will last 4-5 days if properly stored in the fridge.
The buttery, silky texture of this soup, combined with the rich coconut and sweet corn flavours make this a no-brainer for Chardonnay. Reach for something with a touch of oak and weight, such as a bottle from Niagara, Sonoma County, or Pouilly-Fuisse.