Food + Drink

From the Chronicle Kitchen
Seasons in the Wine Country

This week’s blog post comes to us from Cate Conniff, author of Seasons in the Wine Country—the first-ever cookbook from the campus of The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in California’s Napa Valley. Let us know what you think of this recipe by leaving a comment below, and enter to win a copy of this wonderful cookbook. And now, from Cate:

I know, I know. A corn soup recipe in August. So predictable. But there is something to corn carpe diem, when ears still in their husk covers are piled high in the back of a truck at the farmer’s market and just too hard to walk by. So go ahead, give in, grab a basketful and have them make their way into this very grown up and smoky-accented corn-souled soup.

The chive oil is sultry summer itself: bright green and oniony herbaceous, it is almost too simple to make: a few chops, a whirl in the blender, and there you have it. Very impressive touch for very little effort.

Sweet White Corn Soup with Crab and Chive Oil
Serves 6

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. The corn and crab complement each other whereas the sweetness of the corn contrasts the smokiness of the bacon, creating layer upon layer of savory late summer flavors. The herbal undertones of the chive oil suggest the verdancy of the garden and the lightness that is life in the wine country in late summer.

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 cut into 1/4-inch slices
10 sprigs fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh sage
6 cups chicken stock
1 pound 8 ounces Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or as needed
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 ounces Maine, rock, or peekytoe crabmeat or lobster meat
6 tablespoons Chive Oil (see below)

1. Cut the kernels from the cobs. Reserve the kernels and 2 corncobs.
2. 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.
3. Increase the heat to medium high and add the butter and onions to the pot. Sweat the onions until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes.
4. Tie together the thyme and sage sprigs and add to the onion mixture.
5. Add the chicken stock, potatoes, and the reserved corncobs. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, season with salt and pepper. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through, about 30 minutes.
6. Add the cream, stir to combine, and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the reserved kernels and simmer for 5 minutes.
7. Remove the soup from the heat and discard the bacon, corncobs, and herb sprigs.
8. Blend the soup until smooth (preferably an immersion blender), 1 to 2 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.
9. Pass the soup through a fine-mesh sieve into a saucepan then gently reheat.
10. Divide the soup among 6 soup bowls. Place about 2 tablespoons of the crab in each bowl and then drizzle about 1 tablespoon of chive oil over the crab. Serve immediately.

Chive Oil
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 keeps in the refrigerator for 1 week.

2 bunches chives (about 1 ounce each)
1 cup olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt, or as needed

1. 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.
2. Strain the purée through a fine mesh sieve and store in a plastic squeeze bottle or small container in the refrigerator

Wine pairing
If you can find an off-dry sparkling wine it should keep up with the sweetness of the corn and add an attractive texture to the creamy soup.

Purchase Seasons in the Wine Country.

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