The first appearance of local sweet corn is the inspiration for this heavenly soup. This one should have you seeking picked–that-morning corn from your farmers market or a nearby farm stand. Layers of interest are created by complementary tastes (that of the corn and the crab) and those flavors that act as contrasts (the sweetness of the corn and the smokiness of the bacon). The herbal undertones suggest the verdantness of the garden and the lightness that is life in the Napa Valley country in late summer.
Sweet White Corn Soup with Crab and Chive Oil
6 ears sweet corn, (about 12 to 16 ounces each)
2 ounces applewood-smoked slab bacon, cut into thirds (about 2 inch pieces)
2 tablespoons butter
2 small onions (about 8 to 10 ounces each), peeled and sliced
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
6 cups chicken stock
1 pound 8 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and sliced
3/4 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as needed
4 ounces Maine, rock or Peekytoe crab meat or lobster meat
6 tablespoons Chive Oil (see recipe below)
Cut the kernels from the cobs. Reserve the kernels and 2 corncobs.
Place the bacon in a heavy-bottomed large soup pot over low heat and cook until the fat is rendered, about 4 minutes. Do not brown the bacon.
Add the butter and onions to the pot and sweat until soft and translucent over medium-high heat, about 4 to 5 minutes.
Tie together the thyme and sage sprigs and add to the onion mixture.
Add the chicken stock, potatoes, and corncobs to pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, season with salt and pepper, and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
Add the cream and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the reserved kernels and simmer for 5 minutes.
Remove the soup from the heat and discard the bacon, corncobs, and herbs.
Blend the soup until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
Pass the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan. Gently re-heat soup.
Divide soup into 6 soup bowls. Garnish each bowl with about 2 tablespoons crab and 1 tablespoon or so of chive oil. Serve immediately.
Makes about 1 cup
Easy to make and the essence of summer, chive oil can also be used on tomato salads, grilled fish, over Niçoise olives, and on couscous and other grain salads. The oil can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 week.
2 bunches chives (about 1 ounce each)
1 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or as needed
Place the chives, olive oil, and salt in a blender. Purée until smooth, about 30 seconds. Let sit overnight covered in a stainless steel bowl.
Strain the purée through a fine mesh sieve and store in a plastic squeeze bottle or small container in the refrigerator
An off-dry sparkling wine it should keep up with the sweetness of the corn and add an attractive texture to the creamy soup.