Feature photo by Miroslav Vajdic The last days of fresh corn are upon us, as are cooler nights; the perfect time to make Warm Corn Soup!
A Word About Fresh Corn
According to the National Gardening Association, “you can pull back a bit of the husk and check to see if the ear looks well filled and the kernels are creamy yellow or white. Many gardening guides tell you to pierce a kernel with your thumbnail to test for ripeness. If the liquid inside is watery, that ear isn’t quite ready. If the liquid is white or ‘milky,’ you’re in business.” It’s especially important to buy corn from a farmer’s market or a retailer you know gets fresh produce deliveries direct from the farm early every morning, Why? Corn tastes different and is different after 24 hours, “the natural conversion of sugar into starch is sped up when you harvest [the corn]. The moment you pick an ear of sweet corn, its sugars start to change into starches because the natural goal is to nourish seed for reproduction. In 24 hours, most varieties convert more than half their sugar content to starch”.
(note that recipes below make 6-8 servings of soup or 36 shooters)
10 very fresh ears of corn
1 1/2 tbsp salt
8-12 cups water
2 epazote sprig or 1 tsp dry epazote (optional)
2-4 cups Corn Stock (see recipe, below)
12 tablespoons crumbled Cotija cheese
Piquin or Ancho chile powder
Dollop of mayonnaise per serving (optional)
Using a very sharp a knife, remove corn kernels from cob by sitting the base of the corn on a wooden cutting board (plastic boards are too slippery) and slicing close to the cob with a downwards motion, using a serrated knife. Put corn kernels, corn cobs and epazote into rapidly boiling, salted water in a large pot for 3 minutes. Do not overcook corn. Shock corn by placing briefly in a large bowl of ice water so as to stop it from cooking further. Remove corn cobs and strain liquid and save them both to make stock.
Traditional Esquites or Warm Corn Soup
Add corn kernels to simmering Corn Stock (see recipe below) and cook for just for 1-2 minutes, just to reheat them. Your ratio should be 2/3rd stock and 1/3 kernels, or, for a more stew-like dish, you can reverse the ratio so there is more corn than stock, which is how traditional Esquites are served in Mexico. There, they sprinkle the Esquites with piquín chile or ancho chile powder, the juice of half a lime, and 1 tablespoon of crumbled cotija, and some even add a dollop of mayonnaise.
Creamy Corn Soup
Additional Ingredients for Creamy Corn Soup
2 cups milk or cream (you can use low-fat milk, whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream or any combination thereof to achieve the richness and creaminess you want)
cilantro for garnish
red or green chili oil for garnish
Purée 3/4 of the corn kernels with 3 cups of the Corn Broth and the milk, half-and-half or heavy cream, until you have a smooth soup. You may need to work this soup in batches and blend longer than usual, as corn is fibrous. Add more corn stock or milk to thin the soup as needed. Taste and add salt as needed. To serve, reheat soup and remaining corn kernels, separately. Ladle soup into bowls, add a heaping tablespoon of the remaining corn kernels in the middle and garnish with chopped cilantro and red chile oil.
RIFFS: Add 6-8 oz. cooked crabmeat (quality canned, fresh, previously frozen crabmeat is fine, you’ll want to reserve some for garnish) to mixture, and all of the corn kernel you prepared, to the blender and purée for a Creamy Corn and Crab Soup. Add a dollop of crabmeat to middle of soup (see below) a little chopped cilantro and chile oil for garnish.
Additional Ingredients for Esquite Shooters
1 serrano chile or jalapeño (according to your taste), deveined, seeded, and minced
1 sweet red pepper, small dice
6 tablespoons melted butter
Salt and pepper (optional) to taste
Add butter, chiles and sweet peppers to cooked kernels and mix well. Add salt, and pepper (if using), to taste. Chill for at least an hour. Serve cold in double shot glasses, topped with Cotija Cheese.
RIFFS: If you want to make Creamy Esquite Shooters, follow instruction for Creamy Corn Soup, above, ladling the soup into double shot glasses and topping with kernels. Creamy Esquite Shooters can be served hot or cold. If serving cold, top with Cotija cheese crumbles; if serving hot, garnish with red chile oil and chopped cilantro.
For Corn and Scallop Shooters, add well-seasoned broiled, sautéed or marinated (as in ceviche) bay scallops (if available, these are sweeter and you can leave them whole as they are smaller) or, sea scallops chopped to about the same size as your corn kernels. Ratio should be 2/3 corn to 1/3 scallops. Do not top with Cotija cheese, just a little chopped cilantro will do, for color. Serve hot is using sautéed or broiled scallops. Serve cold if you have prepared your scallops as ceviche, in an acidic (lemon or lime) marinade.
2 tablespoon salted butter
1 poblano, dry-roasted to remove skin
1 Spanish white onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
10 corn cobs (the ones you left over from making the Esquites, which will still have plenty of flavor left in them as you only boiled them for 3 minutes)
4 cups water (if you have liquid left from boiling your corn, use it now)
1 clove garlic
Salt to taste
Sautée poblanos and onion in butter. Put corn cobs and garlic in a large pot adding water, or a combination of water and liquid from boiling your corn kerns, to cover and salt well. (You may need to cut your cobs in half so as to fit them in the pot). Bring to boil and lower to a simmer. Add onions and poblanos. Simmer for at least half an hour; the longer you simmer, the more corn flavor your stock will have. Check for salt and add as needed. Keep pot covered if you choose to continue cooking past 30 minutes, so your stock does not evaporate. Remove cobs and strain stock before using. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, freeze for up to 3 months.
This is from my Recipes from the Mission series. Follow me to receive new recipes as I kitchen-test and publish them.