I wasn’t going to post another corn recipe this week, I promise. But the universe got the better of me. First of all, I’m reading Tamar Adler’s An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, a delicious book about the pleasure of cooking with intention and without waste. She describes boiling a chicken—one of the simplest of kitchen techniques and one that I usually reserve for winter soup season—with such eloquence that it made my mouth water (a feat since I happened to be reading before dawn). Secondly, my farmer’s market was selling fresh chickens last week. Thirdly, I suffer from a corn compulsion and came home with a half dozen ears. And finally, I’m getting really excited for the lusty soups and stews of fall. So here we are.
The chicken from the farmer’s market was a thing of beauty. A free-range, insect-pecking bird with thick, pale yellow skin and firm flesh. Taking inspiration from Adler, I simmered it with vegetable trimmings until the meat was just tender. I removed the bird, shredded the meat, discarded the fat and odd little cartilage bits, then threw the bones back into the broth to continue simmering into a rich, golden stock.
The first night I served shards of chicken over creamy polenta with a drizzle of salsa verde and thick slices of tomato. The next night, with cloudy skies and a craving for fall, I decided on soup. This Sweet Corn Soup is the perfect bridge between summer and fall. It’s brimming with sweet corn flavor with a whisper of cumin, oregano, jalapeño, cilantro and lime. The base is simple and is thickened with potato. The stock (or you could even use water) gets simmered with corncobs for extra flavor (although the soup still works with frozen corn—it’s just not quite as good). You can serve the soup chunky, but I pureed it until it was creamy and light. To make it into a meal, I topped each bowl with a few shreds of chicken, a sprinkle of cotija cheese (or you could use feta) and a couple of cilantro leaves. A side of corn bread smeared with butter was a perfect accompaniment and completed the theme. I even had enough chicken leftover for our lunchbox sandwiches the next day (and with two quarts of chicken stock still in the freezer, the chicken is still giving).
We ate our soup outside that night, lingering long enough to get goose bumps from the cool evening breezes. Yes indeed, fall is on her way.
Sweet Corn Soup with Shredded Chicken and Cotija Cheese
- 6 ears of corn , or 4 cups frozen corn
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 medium onion , diced
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 jalapeño pepper , seeded and finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic , minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 small Yukon gold potato , peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice
- 1 large sprig cilantro , plus additional leaves for serving
- 6 cups chicken broth or water (or a mix)
- Juice of ½ lime , plus wedges for serving
- Pinch sugar , optional
- Shredded chicken for serving (boiled, poached or rotisserie all work well)
- 1/2 cup crumbled Cotija or feta cheese
- Cut the corn kernels off the cobs (if using) and measure out 4 cups (if there are any leftover kernels, save them for another use). Reserve cobs.
- Melt the butter in a large, heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and pepper; cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until light golden and softened. Add the jalapeños, garlic, cumin and oregano and cook 2 minutes, stirring. Stir in the potatoes and cilantro. Add the cobs (if using), along with 6 cups of broth or water; bring to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook 5-10 minutes. Remove and discard cobs. Add the corn kernels; bring back to a simmer and cook 5 minutes, or until the potatoes and corn are tender.
- Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender (you could also use a hand blender—the soup will be slightly chunkier). Be careful when working with hot liquids! Pour the soup back into a saucepan and warm it over medium-low heat. Stir in the lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add a pinch of sugar if the soup could use some sweetness (particularly if using frozen corn). Do Ahead: The soup can be made up to 2 days in advance, stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Reheat and stir well before serving.
- Ladle the soup into serving bowls. Garnish each with some shredded chicken, a sprinkle of Cotija or feta cheese and a few cilantro leaves. Serve with lime wedges. Warm, butter-smeared corn bread is a delicious accompaniment.