I have been meaning to post about corn soup for a few weeks now but some tomatoes and blueberries got in my way! In a battle of epic proportions (well, epic in my mind anyways!), I pitted the legendary champion, Cook’s Illustrated against fledgling culinary newcomer Gwyneth Paltrow. Yes, that Gwyneth Paltrow. Academy Award winning actress, singer, wife of Coldplay rocker Chris Martin, mother to Apple and Moses and possessor of gorgeous hair. She recently released a cookbook called “My Father’s Daughter.”
Here’s how this battle came about. When the July 2011 issue of Cook’s Illustrated came out I quickly leafed through it to see what caught my eye. I was stopped dead in my tracks by a recipe for corn chowder. You see, I love corn chowder. I used to make an incredible one, using Imagine Organic Creamy Sweet Corn Soup as the base for the soup. But then the company went and changed the formulation of the product. They slapped a big “New and Improved Taste” banner right on the front of the box! Yeah right! New maybe, but improved? Only if you happen love the taste of dirty dishwater!
So imagine my joy when I found a new corn chowder recipe. I was all set to make the Cook’s Illustrated recipe when I came across a second corn soup, a cold corn vichysoisse in the July issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. This recipe was created by Gwyneth herself, from her new cookbook, “My Father’s Daughter.” Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will undoubtedly have seen Gwynnie making the rounds on all the daytime talk shows, promoting her book.
She has very sweet and touching memories of cooking together with her dad, and this book is a sort of tribute to her late father (Bruce Paltrow). It is a cookbook that celebrates family and togetherness. And try as you might to hate her, because she seems so perfect, she admits that her quest for perfection comes from self-doubt and insecurity. And who can’t relate to that? And I must admit, I was intrigued. After spending all that time in Spain with Mario Batali and Mark Bittman, I wanted to see what she had learned.
To be honest, I fully expected to prefer the corn chowder from Cook’s Illustrated over the corn vichysoisse from Gwyneth. To level the playing field, I immediately omitted the bacon from the Cook’s version. After all, it wouldn’t really be a fair fight if only one side got to use bacon. Everything always tastes better with bacon. And besides, we keep kosher at home, so bacon would be a big no-no in my kitchen.
I made the corn chowder from Cook’s first. They used an intriguing method of stripping the corn from the cob. Fisrt. going over it lightly with a sharp knife to remove just the kernels and then going over the cob again with the back of a table knife to remove all the pulp. Then they instruct you to put all the pulp into a clean tea towel and wring it out. The liquid that comes out from the towel is referred to as the “corn liquor” and apparently it is what gives the final soup its bright fresh CORN flavour.
The corn chowder from Cook’s Illustrated was very good, although I expected a brighter corn flavour, and to be honest, I thought the half and half cream kind of muddied the fresh corn taste I was expecting. Then I made Gwyneth’s vichysoisse. She suggests throwing the stripped corn cobs into the pot, while the soup is simmering, to add extra flavour, sort of like the vegetarian version of chicken bones I guess. The recipe calls for good quality vegetable stock. I used homemade vegetable stock, a fabulous roasted vegetable stock courtesy of Mark Bittman. I was blown away by the pure corn essence of this soup. Sweet and silky and tasting of pure late summer. Folks, we have a winner in battle Corn Soup.
You can serve it chilled with a dollop of sour cream or heat it up and just garnish it with some chopped chives. I liked it best hot.
Final score: Gwyneth 1 and Cook’s Illustrated 0.
I have adapted Gwyneth’s recipe by adding jalapeño, thyme and a bay leaf. I also added some fresh corn kernels after pureeing to give a bit of crunch.
Click here to print the recipe for Corn Vichyssoise
Click here to print the recipe for Roasted Vegetable Stock.
And, if you’re keen to create your own Battle Corn Soup at home,