The most elegant dish I know is also the simplest. A few years ago, a chef friend told us about his corn soup. He operated one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country, one with a heavy emphasis on seasonal ingredients. He created the kind of artful dishes that featured perfectly chiseled turnips, blushing poached radishes, and feathery fried sunchokes. Everything tasted full and round and buttery, and was served in whimsical ways to boot. It was a sheer delight to eat there. But the star? Sweet, silky corn soup you gulped down without a spoon.
The chef then told us his soup had one ingredient: corn juice. As in, corn kernels run through a juicer. I couldn’t believe how spare the ingredients were, how simple the technique. Just, uh, corn?
When I went to try my hand at making it for the first time, I was nervous. Surely I didn’t have the right corn. Surely my juicer wasn’t fancy enough. Surely it couldn’t be restaurant-level good. And yet, it was incredible.
This is one of those dishes that stunning in both its beauty and sheer simplicity. But two cardinal rules must be followed: You must use in-season sweet corn. Buy it in its husks, and still warm from the sun at your nearby farmers market. The kernels should be small and evenly sized. Use it the same day you buy it.
And, you must use a juicer. Blenders wouldn’t work in this case.
To remove kernels neatly (well, as neatly as can be expected), put an overturned small bowl inside a larger bowl. This will act at the base to support your corn ear vertically while you slice the kernels. You will undoubtedly still scatter a large number of kernels, so make sure your counter top is clean so you can sweep them up afterward the initial scatter shot.
After removing the kernels, run the the back of your knife up and down the cob to remove any corn milk. This may seem like overkill, but it’s so delicious every drop counts. You’ll scoop the corn kernels into the juicer in batches, collecting the pale yellow juice in a bowl or large measuring cup.
I opted to garnish my version with a verdant speckling of chive oil, for a little oniony lilt. But you’d be happy without it too.
Sweet corn soup with chive oil
Serves four as an appetizer, or eight as an amuse bouche.
For the chive oil (optional)
- 1 oz. chives (the size of a standard supermarket herb plastic packet)
- 1/2 cup neutral oil, like canola
Equipment: blender and fine mesh strainer
Prepare a bowl of ice water. Bring additional water to a boil in a medium pan. Blanch chives for 10 seconds, then plunge into ice water. Drain and pat dry. Chop roughly.
Add chives and oil to blender and blend on high until smooth. Let the mixture steep for 30 minutes. Strain the oil through a fine mesh strainer, or through a cheesecloth, to remove any bits of chives. Reserve oil. You can store the chive oil in the fridge, but make sure it’s room temperature before using.
For the corn soup
- 8 ears of corn, shucked
- Fine salt
Remove corn kernels using the method above. Turn on your juicer to medium power (I used a soft-to-medium fruit setting). Scoop kernels by the cupful into the juicer and run them through, catching the soup in a large bowl or measuring cup.
When all kernels have been juiced, taste the soup, and salt lightly as desired. Stir well, and pour into small bowls or tall shot glasses. Drizzle sparingly with chive oil, if using, and serve immediately.