Save Those Naked Cobs for Silky, Superior Spiced Corn Soup (in 4 Steps!)

July 27, 2017

Like many obsessive cookbook collectors, I’ve been transfixed by Samin Nosrat’s Salt Fat Acid Heat, which has lived on my kitchen counter since its arrival but which travels with me, too—what if I get stuck somewhere?! I open it whenever I can, each peek invariably leading to a few more pages dog-eared, a recipe or technique I will try soon.

This may even be better than hot corn on the cob. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

I recently made Samin’s silky sweet corn soup, which I love for its simplicity and economy—it calls for stripping the kernels from 10 ears of corn, then making a quick stock with the naked cobs and water. When I wrote about it on my blog, a commenter pointed me to the curried coconut corn soup recipe from Deborah Madison’s Vegetable Soups, which employs the same corn-cob stock technique.

Make the most out of your food "waste." Photo by Alexandra Stafford

With the local sweet corn abound at the market, I had to make it immediately. Despite a lengthier ingredient list than Samin’s, the soup came together incredibly quickly and tasted complex, deeply curried with subtle sweet and sour notes. Like Julia Turshen’s curried lentils with coconut milk, it seems to materialize from nothing or almost nothing: the sweetest, freshest corn you can find will make all the difference here.

Use the freshest corn for this. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

Here’s the basic process:

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1. Remove the kernels from four ears of corn, peel an onion, then make a stock with the trimmings (the cobs and onion skins) along with a few sprigs of cilantro sprigs.

2. As the stock simmers, finely dice the onion and chop some cilantro.

3. Strain the stock, then sauté the onion and add the spices, salt, a can of coconut milk, the corn kernels, and your homemade corn stock.

4. After 10 minutes of simmering, squeeze in the juice from one lime and adjust seasonings to taste.

That’s it!

Hot, chilled, lukewarm—there's no way in which this soup won't satisfy. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

While I’ve only ever eaten this soup piping hot with tons of black pepper, Deborah notes “it’s the kind of soup that’s good warm, tepid, and even chilled.” When served warm, she likes to serve it over basmati rice, and whether it’s chilled or hot, she suggests serving it with a swirl of yogurt and a sprig of cilantro. I’ve yet to add a single garnish, finding it deeply satisfying on its own: full of texture, spiced but not spicy, naturally sweet and tart thanks to the corn and lime, with a subtle richness and creaminess lent by the coconut milk. Warm up a hunk of bread and call dinner done.

A few notes

If you’re up for it, toast some of the spices. Deborah’s original recipe doesn’t call for it, but I find toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds before crushing them in a mortar and pestle adds considerable flavor for just a fraction more work. If you don’t feel like it, pre-ground cumin and coriander work just fine.

Toast your spices for that extra edge. Photo by Alexandra Stafford

If you want a creamy soup, purée it in a food processor or blender until smooth. Or purée just a portion of it, if you want, as Deborah says, “to thicken the background and leave the rest full of texture.”

While this soup is refreshingly mild, a bit of heat would be welcomed here. For a spicier soup, sauté a minced jalapeño along with the onion or add a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes with the spices or finish the soup with a splash of hot sauce.

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I write the blog alexandra's kitchen, a place for mostly simple, sometimes fussy, and always seasonal recipes. My cookbook, Bread Toast Crumbs is available everywhere books are sold.

1 Comment

yiayia October 17, 2017
This is such a wonderful recipe--and a real dinner party hit. I've made it twice and the guests were actually swooning. The only changes I made were as follows: 1. I doubled the recipe (it's no more work).
2. I left out the cumin, not because it's not tasty, but it darkens the soup and dominates.
3. Definitely use white onion as suggested to keep that bright color.
4. Similarly, while I used cilantro sprigs as instructed when making the stock, I added the chopped cilantro right before serving so it stays bright and fresh looking. If I have any left over, I chop more fresh cilantro the next day.
This is a great recipe to enjoy and to impress.