Saturday, February 14, 2009

Roasted Corn Soup

Roasted Corn Soup

It was the British voice of Nigella Lawson which coaxed me into a preparing a corn soup. We had just received our first big snow, and I was on my way home from work, maneuvering my car through the slush, and listening to NPR. Already starving, I imagined the taste of a velvety soup. Hers sounded healthy, but in my midday soup dream, I was dumping in the cream, stirring slowly until white, radial streaks appeared, offset by the deep yellow soup. I swerved to miss a squirrel family, then returned to ladeling my soup into a bowl. And then there were toppings. Oh, the toppings. Piled high over my soup were layers of cold sour cream, crisp scallions, pepperjack cheese, and crunchy tortilla strips. Forget the soup, I wanted nachos. But in the end, the soup won out. After all, if I've learned one thing so far in my life, it's that when a British voice tells you to do something, you do it.

Roasted Corn

WARNING: The following recipe may contain multiple toppings. Strict compliance with all topping guidelines is absolutely critical. There are to be no exceptions.

Roasted Corn Soup
makes 1 huge serving

2 lbs frozen corn
4 tbsp butter
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
chicken stock, a few quarts
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
5 oz pepperjack cheese, grated
4 scallions, minced
1 cup half and half
2 gallons sour cream
corn tortilla chips

  1. Thaw corn under hot water. After shaking off the excess water, add the corn kernals with a pinch of salt to a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Work in one layer batches so the corn has plenty of room to roast. Let them burn slightly, giving them a stir every few minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the onion in butter over low heat until translucent. Remember to add some salt to help pull out the moisture of the onions.
  3. Add the jalapeno and about 3/4 of the corn to the onions along with the chicken stock and bring to a boil. If you don't add enough, you can always add more later if you need it, but if you add too much, you'll have to wait for the soup to reduce.
  4. Using a blender (or hand blender) puree the soup. At this point, you can strain the soup through a sieve or leave the corn "pulp" for a more rustic soup.
  5. Dump in most of the cheese and scallions, reserving a small portion as toppings.
  6. Remove from heat for a little bit before adding the half and half.
  7. Here, you might let the soup sit on low heat for half an hour or so. Flavors in soup don't come together instantly, and the longer the soup sits, the better it tastes.
  8. Just before serving the soup, taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed. Sometimes the smallest squirt of lemon juice can keep a soup from tasting flat.
  9. Finally, and this is crucial, you will need to add the toppings to each bowl.

Green Onions, Jalapeno, and Cheese

Things to do differently...
  • Next time, I think I should roast the jalapeno along with the corn.
  • I think I might try a more strongly-flavored cheese, like asiago.
  • Half and half is a cop out. I'm going with cream from now on.
  • The 2 gallons of sour cream goes fast.

Things to keep the same...
  • Roasting the crap out of that corn. The sweetness of the corn starts to caramelize, and it's pretty much amazing.
  • Adding that squirt of lemon juice really brightened up the flavor.
  • The cold sour cream was a great contrast to the hot soup.
  • The corn tortilla chips added some nice, crunchy texture to the soup.
  • The scallions gave each bite a crisp freshness.
So, as I sit here now, the snow has melted, the slush is gone, and that squirrel family is probably roadkill. The sun is out, and the world seems to have rebalanced. Yet far, far away, across thousands of miles of ocean, the proverbial butterfly flaps its wings, and Nigella Lawson issues her culinary edicts.