Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Sweet Corn and Chanterelle Soup

I have a serious weakness for simple pureed vegetable soups. Done correctly, they capture the essence of their main ingredient: sweet spring peas, creamy butternut squash, or roasted red pepper, for example. Some people's eyes light up when they see artisanal cocktails or a great cheese selection on a restaurant's menu, but spotting a sweet corn soup with smoked shrimp is what set my stomach rumbling on a recent excursion to Frances, a newish restaurant in Castro that's been getting rave reviews. It was by far the best course of the evening, and not one week later, I found myself craving another bowlful of summery corn soup in the worst way.

For my base, I used a recipe by Alice Waters. Cooking a seasonal soup with just a few ingredients screamed of her style to me, and this recipe really delivered. I added my own little twist, garnishing the soup with a dollop of creme fraiche and chives, and a handful of sauteed chanterelles. The result was like summer in a bowl.

Sweet Corn and Chanterelle Soup (adapted from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters)
2 tablespoons butter
4 ears of fresh shucked corn
1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced
1 quart (4 cups) of water
Two large handfuls of chanterelle mushrooms
Splash of olive oil
3-4 tablespoons creme fraiche
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Salt to taste

1. Melt the butter and cook the onion over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot for about 15 minutes. Do not allow the onions to brown. Season with a healthy pinch of salt.

2. Meanwhile, in a prep bowl, hold a shucked ear of corn upright and remove the kernels with a small, serrated knife. Repeat with the remaining ears of corn.

3. Add the corn kernels to the onion/butter mixture and cook for 2-3 minutes. Cover with 1 quart of water, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

4. While the soup is cooking, clean and slice the chanterelles. Heat up a splash of olive oil in a small frying pan and cook the chanterelles with a pinch of kosher salt for about 3-4 minutes, or until they are soft.

5. Puree the soup in batches. Waters suggests passing the puree through a mesh strainer, but this step is a little too "restaurant-y" for my style, so I left it as is. Salt to taste. I added about three more pinches of salt.

TO SERVE: Place five or six mushrooms in the bottom of a bowl and spoon over about a cup of soup. Then add a generous dollop of creme fraiche and scatter some chives over the top. Some fresh cracked black pepper is excellent here.

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