Poor corn. It's been pimped out to animal feed and fructose companies, making it top the most-wanted list of dietary no-nos. But real corn -- and by "real" I mean those delightful yellow and white cobs that come in green husks and not the mass-produced grain in monoculture fields -- is a summer treat.
Corn is at its best roasted on the grill where that direct intense heat makes the kernels sweeter. After eating our fill of grilled corn a few weeks ago, however, I wanted to try something a little different. Soup. Yes, I know. Soup is not a summer standard. But we live in the Bay Area, where hot days are followed by cool, foggy ones, so soup is an every-season dish as far as I'm concerned.
Corn chowder is a favorite of mine. In the past, I have always just cooked the corn on the stove to make soup, but this time I wondered how everything would turn out if I roasted it first. I had to give it a try. Now keep in mind that this is a simple recipe. Unlike other corn chowders, which are usually made in the winter, this soup doesn't include root vegetables, like potatoes, or spices. Corn is now in season so I really wanted it to be the star and adding other ingredients meant it would have to share the stage. I therefore settled on just corn, bacon and onion along with stock and milk. The result was lovely: just-picked corn sweetness caramelized on the grill with a salty bacon accent. You could easily serve the soup just like this, but because I am growing parsley in my backyard, I decided to top everything off with an herb pistou to round out the flavors.
What, you may ask, is a pistou? It's just a fancy name for herbs blended with olive oil and seasonings. I often make a parsley pistou for my lentil soup, so whipped one up for the chowder. The result was more than I had hoped for. Like lime with jalapeno, or coffee with chocolate, the pistou heightened the corn's natural essence and elevated the flavor to a new level.
Roasted cream of corn chowder with parsley pistou has now become one of my favorite summer dishes, with or without a fog bank.
Roasted Cream of Corn Chowder with Parsley Pistou
Makes: 4 servings
2 strips bacon
1/2 onion diced
3 large cobs of corn
1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
2 cups chicken stock
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat grill to high.
2. Place husked corn on direct heat and turn down the grill. If using a charcoal grill, place on indirect heat.
3. Grill for about 5 minutes a side or until the kernels start to brown. You may even hear a popping sound.
4. When corn is thoroughly cooked, remove it from the grill. Set aside to cool.
5. Chop bacon into small pieces and cook in a medium pan. Add the diced onions when the bacon is 2/3 cooked through. Continue cooking until bacon is crispy and onions cooked through.
6. Trim kernels from the cobs. I place my knife at a slight angle, which makes it easier to remove the kernels.
7. Place bacon and onions in a blender along with the corn, chicken stock and milk. Puree until the mixture reaches the consistency you desire. I like it mostly smooth, but with some small chunks. You can also use a hand blender.
8. Place the soup into a medium-sized pot and heat through.
9. Ladle into bowls and top with parsley pistou.
Makes: 1 cup
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Place parsley and olive oil in a blender and puree until the herb is fully integrated into the oil.
2. Add salt and pepper to taste.