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July 28, 2010

Thai Coconut Corn Bisque

While grocery shopping last week it occurred to me that I hadn't had any corn yet this summer. Seeing that I live in Illinois (read: the land of corn), that seemed outright insane. I snatched up 4 cobs with plans to consume them as soon as possible.

A couple days later I was roaming a farmers market over my lunch hour just for fun (what, you don't do that?). A lady was standing out in front of her booth as I walked by, and she approached me with an ear of corn, husk peeled back and ready to bite into. She claimed to have the best sweet corn around and insisted that I try it. Her tactic worked, ignoring the 4 cobs already at home, I bought a half dozen of hers.

Two days passed, still none of the 10 cobs had been consumed. My CSA delivery arrives with, what else, more corn. I suddenly found myself up to my ears in ears, 14 to be exact. It was definitely time to buckle down and eat some corn!

I decided to go with soup to start, because I knew I could get through half of my surplus in one shot. My soup borrows some techniques and ingredients from Joanne's and Ashley's soups, with a few twists of my own. The most exciting part is the homemade stock, which puts the bare cobs to use after the kernels have been stripped. Brilliant, and more importantly, delicious! The spicy Thai and citrus flavors compliment the sweet corn wonderfully. The bit of coconut milk stirred in for a creamy finish rounds out the Thai flavors, yet keeps things light enough for a summer meal.

Thai Coconut Corn Bisque
(Adapted from Eat Me, Delicious)
Serves 4

1/2 tbsp oil
1 onion, diced
1 rib celery, diced
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1 stalk lemongrass
1/2 tsp ground coriander
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 cups fresh corn kernels, divided  (about 6 large ears, reserve cobs for stock)
4 cups corn cob stock* (recipe below, or sub other vegetable stock)
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp kaffir lime leaves, chopped (or sub zest of 1 lime)
1 tsp Thai curry paste, red or panang (omit for milder soup)
1/2 cup full fat coconut milk
Juice of 1 lime
1/3 - 1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a large pot. Add onions and saute for about 3 minutes. Stir in celery, carrots, garlic, and ginger - cover the pot and cook for about 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, start prepping your lemongrass. Cut off the bulbous portion at the bottom and remove the tough outer leaves. Cut a few slits along the stalk, and "bruise" the lemongrass by pressing the flat edge of a chefs knife blade down on it. This will open it a bit and release the flavors.

Add the lemongrass to the pot, along with the coriander, salt, crushed red pepper, 3 cups of the corn kernels, and the stock. Increase the heat to bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.

Remove lemongrass and puree the soup with a hand blender (or in batches in a blender), leaving it a little bit chunky. Return the lemongrass to the pot, along with the remaining corn, diced red bell pepper, curry paste, and lime leaves. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the lemongrass, stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, and cilantro, and serve.

*I made the stock a day ahead and refrigerated overnight to cut down on prep time.

Corn Cob Stock
(adapted from Eats Well With Others)
Makes 4-5 cups

6 corn cobs, kernels removed and reserved for another use
1 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, peeled
1 rib of celery, trimmed
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp coriander seeds
8 cups water
1 tsp salt

Heat a large (dry) pot over medium heat. Add coriander seeds and toast for about 3 minutes, or until fragrant, stirring frequently. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes. Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids. Freezes well.

Have corn but not in the mood for my soup? Check out these wonderful looking, corn-centric recipes that are sure to inspire!