Anyone who says there are no seasons in Southern California has never been to Chino Ranch in the summertime. I stopped by the farm today–after a morning hike on the secret horse trails of Rancho Santa Fe that, along with a lifetime of free firewood and a covenant that insures your neighbor can never build a McMansion on his land, is one of the perks of living in this precious place, and found the parking lot spilling over and a long line outside the stand. Everything the Chinos grow is divine–including, at this time of year, melons of all kinds, green beans that Alice Waters famously declared tasted just like green beans when she discovered them (the beans and the Chino family) in 1972, and the most glorious tomatoes of every shape and color imaginable. But the line is for the Chino’s famous corn. They grow yellow and white (I don’t know the names, though I should) and sell it by the half dozen or dozen, and fans of the corn line up before the stand opens in the summertime to get their hands on some before the farm sells out, which they invariably will. Some people complain about the price (a dollar an ear, I think, as opposed to the can’t-give-the-stuff-away-prices at places like … basically everywhere else that sells corn), but these are often the same people who pull up in leased Range Rovers and shirts that cost the same as some people’s rent, so never mind them. Besides, talking about the price of corn is boring. If you ever have the privilege of getting your hands on some of these golden ears, you might want to make this soup, a puree of pretty much nothing but corn that I learned to make during a week I had the privilege of doing an internship at Chez Panisse.
Corn Corn Soup
Take a couple of sweet yellow onions, trim them and throw all the trimmings into a soup pot filled with water placed over high heat. If you happen to have some cheesecloth lying around, make a bouquet with some peppercorns, parsley, and whatever other fresh herbs you have that you think go well with corn and throw that into the water, too. Meanwhile, shuck some corn. Let’s say half a dozen ears, though the soup is so good you might as well make it with a dozen ears because it will all get eaten. Guaranteed. Shuck the ears, remove the silks, cut the kernels from the cob, set the kernels aside, and throw the cobs into the pot with the onion trimmings. (What you’re doing in case you haven’t figured it out yet is making corn broth.) Now dice the onions and saute them in a separate soup pot with butter and a sprinkling of kosher salt over medium heat–or lower. You want to get the onions soft and sweet, but you don’t want a speck of color on them. If the onions start to color, turn down the heat, and if that doesn’t do the trick, add a splash of water. When the onion is really soft and smushy, after about 20 minutes, add the corn kernels and some more kosher salt. Saute the corn and onion together for 5 or 10 minutes. Then add some of the corn stock and puree the soup with an immersion blender, adding more corn stock and pureeing away until what you are looking at is corn soup. That’s it. No cream. Nothing fancy. Just corn. Serve it warm, with a few turns of pepper if you like. At CP, they used Marash pepper, which I have never used (or even seen) since but am going to pick up in honor of corn season. I’m not sure I have the palate to tell the difference in a particular type of pepper, but I can tell you that appreciating the flavor of this corn takes no skill whatsoever.