Sweet corn season is finally in full swing, and we couldn't be happier to be munching our way through pyramids of barely boiled ears, annointed with just a gloss of butter and a flurry of salt. But spurred on by fears of long winter months devoid of fresh corn, you might just find yourself overdoing it a bit at the farmers' market, coming home flush with more ears than you could possibly eat. It's a blessed dilemma with which Evan Hanczor, head chef at Brooklyn neighborhood favorite Egg, is familiar. Hanczor's go-to trick is to turn his extra ears into a dead simple and healthy corn soup that uses corn cob stock as a base. Here, Hanczor shares that recipe, along with additional #nowaste ideas for how to use up a sweet corn surplus.
Evan Hanczor, Head Chef, Egg
Wrap It Up
I think most people have fewer problems using up the kernels of corn—it's mainly the cobs and husks that get left behind. The best use for husks is to make tamales with them or, in a similar way, use them to wrap fish or vegetables and then grill the packages for a smoky flavor but a gentle, almost steamed style of cooking.
We've tested making tisanes out of the husks and the flavor is good, very mild but a little sweet and corn-y. You can make it even sweeter with honey.
Sorbet and Smoky Simple Syrup
Our best uses of the corn cobs start with corn stock (see recipe below), which can be used as a base for any kind of soup. If you concentrate the stock by boiling it down further than you would for soup, you can add sugar to make the base of a corn sorbet or granita. For a twist, we often smoke the cobs before boiling them for stock. We smoke them over woodchips on the stovetop, but you could easily char them on a grill for a similar effect. I highly recommend using that smoky corn liquid as the base for a simple syrup, which is a great addition to a bourbon-based cocktail. The charred corn flavor echoes the bourbon's foundational flavors really beautifully.
Corn stock, whether made with fresh or roasted cobs, is great for cooking polenta and grits. It really intensifies that dried corn flavor with a fresher, sweeter note.
Pickles and Fermented Relish
If one does find him or herself with so great a glut of corn that it can't possibly be consumed in various on-the-cob, salad, or soup-y preparations, both vinegar pickled and lacto-fermented corn products are delicious and cool to play with. There are plenty of recipes out there for these techniques, but I'd recommend, as I usually do in this department, looking to Sandor Katz for fermenting advice (The Art of Fermentation is the bible on the subject).
Egg's Chilled Summer Corn Soup
Makes about two quarts
1 sliced shallot
8 corn cobs, kernels removed and reserved, with water to cover
2 quarts corn kernels
2.5 to 3 quarts corn stock
1 sprig of thyme
1 tablespoon apricot vinegar (can sub raspberry or red wine vinegar if needed)
Salt to taste
For Corn Stock:
Shuck the corn. Trim a sliver off the base of each shucked cob so you have a flat surface to stand the corn upon. Stand the corn on a cutting board (or on a towel set into a large mixing bowl if you’re worried about kernels going everywhere) and slicing vertically downward from the tapered tip of the corn to the base, remove the kernels on all sides. Reserve the kernels for the soup.
In a medium stock pot, combine the cobs, shallot and water. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes until the stock smells richly sweet with corn aroma. Strain out the cobs and shallot and reserve the broth.
For the Soup:
Combine the kernels and the corn stock in a medium pot and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until the kernels are tender. Remove the pot from the heat and process the soup in batches in a blender, pureeing until the mixture is completely smooth. When all the soup is pureed, stick a sprig of thyme in it and allow the flavor to infuse for 5 minutes. Remove the thyme. Add the vinegar and season to taste with salt, remembering to overseason a bit since the soup, when cold, will need more salt to maintain a pronounced, balanced flavor. If the soup is too thick, thin with a little extra corn stock.
The soup can take many directions. Garnish with sour cherries and basil for a very light take, or with a salty cheese and black pepper for more of a kick. Smoked paprika, spanish chorizo, cilantro and jalapeño—try out a number of additions! The soup can, of course, also be served hot, folded into grits or polenta for added flavor, or used as the base of a pasta sauce if you want to get creative with it.