Friday, September 2, 2011

My Recipe for Creamy Fresh Corn Soup with bacon- Lactose-free and Gluten-free!

I have a delightful recipe to share which is perfect for these last days of summer with the bounty of fresh corn. I have been playing around with ideas for this recipe since a wonderful dinner we had in Charleston South Carolina last Sunday.
We were in Charleston for wedding, which was quite beautiful. We spent a couple extra days to explore and had a lovely time. I love the historic district and hope to go back when it is cooler. One of the highlights was a special dinner at a restaurant that was highly recommended by many people around town. Husk is an incredible restaurant and very different from my usual dining experience. I have only been to a couple of restaurants this upscale in my entire life! But this trip was kind of an extended “date” for us so we thought it sounded like a fun epicurean adventure.
The Award-winning Chef Sean Brock, creates new Southern dishes each day based on what is available. Using heirloom and artisanal ingredients, he re-designs  southern recipes with a modern flair. I have to admit, there were several things on the menu that were a bit unknown so we settled on a “first” of chilled sweet corn soup with  blue crab, and smoked jalapenos because all of the ingredients were things we were familiar with and liked although we had not had chilled corn soup before. We skipped the Seared  Foie Gras with Grilled Peaches and Fried Chicken Skins with Hot Sauce and Honey. We were not quite that adventurous! But, we did overhear comments from other diners that these choices were delicious.

Our soup arrived and it was beautiful. I spooned up a bite and the fragrance reminded me of summer sea side cook outs- sweet corn with smoky undertones and a hint of the crabmeat. I wish I could describe that first bite…it was just too good for words. The flavor was intense and mellow at the same time with the sweet corn definitely in the lead. The texture of this soup was like silk, so creamy and smooth and completely enjoyable. No greasiness or grittiness to it! I decided then and there that I am going to learn to make something that is a least a decent imitation of this delicious creamy soup. Although I asked if there was any way we could get the recipe, the waitress wasn't able to help much, . But she did think they had buttermilk in it.

I am now on a quest to create a delicious creamy soup of sweet corn. So far, I have made a couple of versions. I will share with you the ones that are worth trying but I must admit, I doubt I will ever come close to the chilled sweet corn soup at Husk so if you are ever in Charleston, check out what is on the menu for the day! But I will get a vegetarian version up soon with buttermilk...once I perfect it.

I am also working on some other recipes from the menu, but that is for another post J

Here is my favorite at home creamy corn soup so far. This one is special because I made it for my dear friend, Ally, who cannot have gluten or lactose so this recipe does not contain any buttermilk, cream or flour. Instead, I decided to try using bacon to give the soup its creamy, velvety texture.

 I have long been making a kind of corn soup with bacon but this one is a step up, using fresh corn on the cob which is an incredible flavor boost and develops a thicker broth. I did not want to dilute the corn flavor, striving for the intensity of the Husk soup, so I made a broth from the cobs simmered in a home-made vegetable broth. This took some time but was very easy.
The bacon was a marvelous addition and I liked this version better than my first try with buttermilk. I cooled the soup and pureed it for a good long while in the blender. Then, I pushed it through a course meshed sieve to remove the fibers. This resulted in a very nice texture but not comparable yet to the restaurant. Still, it was a huge hit and one of the best soups I have made. Oh, and since we are not in 97 degree with super humidity Charleston but in cooler, drier Colorado, I served it warm.

Creamy corn soup with Bacon—A gluten and lactose free version

Cut corn kernels off 6 cobs and reserve both kernels and cobs. Place cobs in large, deep stock pot with about 6 cups of water and or vegetable or chicken stock ( homemade is best), enough  to cover. Simmer on low for 3-4 hours. Remove cobs and strain broth. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste. This may be done a day or two before soup or even made ahead and frozen to be used with other fresh kernels later. You may add an onion or garlic along with cobs to make a more flavorful broth.

Place 3 strips of bacon in a large heavy stock pot and cook until crisp. Remove bacon to be put back in later. Pour 1/3 of the bacon renderings (okay, grease but that just sounds bad J)  into small bowl. Keep this in case you need a bit more grease as you cook.   

Heat the rest of the bacon renderings and add ½  cup sliced leeks(white part only), 1 small  diced onion, 1-2 jalapeno, 1 tsp crushed garlic, cook 5 minutes until starting to brown.

Add  Corn along with broken up bacon slices and ½ tsp smoked paprika,  ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp. onion powder, ¼ tsp chipotle powder, 1 ½ tsp salt, few grinds of pepper, small pinch of sugar. Sauté for another 5 minutes.  Add more bacon renderings if it looks low on grease or dry.

Add 4 cups corn broth and heat to low boil. Simmer for 30 minutes or more until corn and veggies are soft.If you start getting low on liquid, add a bit more broth or water. Keep an extra cup of broth on hand for this.

 Let soup cool some. May be refrigerated for a day.

Place about a third of the cool soup in blender. Don’t over fill and make sure you have some liquid with each batch. Start low and increase speed to puree, careful that the lid does not come off.

After thoroughly puréeing, You may place a few cups in a fine or course wire sieve which has been placed in or over large bowl or container. Press soup through with a wooden spoon into clean bowl. You can do this for all of the soup or just part, which seems to me to be best. Or if you want a textured soup skip this step. Once all soup has been pureed and strained, you may reheat or chill to serve hot or cold. Garnish with flavored oil, sour cream, crab meat, sliced red peppers or some chopped parsley.

Makes four meal servings or about six  first course small servings. Be sure to serve it with some kind of bread for getting those last drops out or people may be resort to licking the bowl clean. Yes, it is really that dang good.

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