August 31, 2010
Sweet Corn and Basil Bisque
Varietal: Sauvignon Blanc
Serves 6 as an appetizer
This summery corn soup comes from chef Big John Caudill, a bigger-than-life personality who’s cooked at wineries, charity events, and restaurants (and even owned one of his own) throughout Washington wine country since 1989 and now hosts lavish Sunday night dinners in the Yakima Valley. Big John likes to serve his dish with grilled bread and a chilled glass of Washington-state Sauvignon Blanc. Like the chef who created it, the soup boasts big flavors-sweet corn, salt, black pepper, and a piquant note of Tabasco. Meanwhile, the wine “is crisp and refreshing and balances out the creaminess of the soup very well,” according to John. Those with timid palates might cut back on the black pepper and Tabasco the first time they make the soup, although I found their presence agreeably tongue-tingling and throat-warming.
6 to 7 ears sweet corn, husks and strings removed and discarded, ears rinsed and patted dry
4 cups chicken stock or reduced-sodium chicken broth
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup minced Walla Walla sweet onion or other variety of sweet onion
1/4 cup minced shallots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup peeled and diced russet potatoes
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt, plus extra for seasoning
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus extra for seasoning
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
2 tablespoons fresh minced basil, plus extra sprigs, for garnish
3 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream
1. With a large, sharp kitchen knife, cut the kernels from the corn and save the cobs. Measure 4 cups of kernels and set aside. Save any remaining kernels for use in another recipe.
2. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a medium saucepan, add the corn cobs (cut in half if needed to fit the pan), cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the stock is infused with the flavor of the corncobs, about 20 minutes. Strain the cobs and discard; keep the stock warm.
3. Melt the butter in a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, shallot, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened but not browned, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the reserved corn kernels, the potatoes, 3 cups of the warm stock, the salt, and pepper, and stir well. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.
4. Add the cream and Tabasco and stir well. In a food processor or blender, pulse the soup in batches until very smooth, adding the batches back to the stockpot to re-warm. (An immersion blender also works well to purée the soup.)
5. If needed, add some or all of the remaining 1 cup of chicken stock to thin the soup. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then gently stir in the basil.
6. Ladle the soup into 6 soup bowls, dollop with crème fraîche, and garnish with fresh basil sprigs.
Recipe reprinted from Pacific Northwest Wining & Dining: The People, Places, Food, and Drink of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and British Columbia (Wiley, 2007, $34.95) by Braiden Rex-Johnson.