Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dinner with bloggers (and corn soup)

The local Whole Foods store - on Pearl Street in Boulder, if you're familiar with the area - just finished a huge expansion and remodeling project and also launched a partnership with Food52 on a new blog.

To celebrate, Whole Foods invited a group of bloggers to a dinner on the newly-completed west patio. The guest of honor at the event was Amanda Hesser, founder of Food52 (among other things). And gee, since I'm a local blogger, I got an invite.

Truthfully, I wasn't expecting much. I mean, really? Dinner catered by a grocery store? Even though it was Whole Foods, I wasn't expecting dinner dinner. High end rotisserie chicken, maybe. But I wasn't expecting the dinner - or the service - that we got. It was easy to forget we were at a grocery store and imagine we were at a lovely outdoor restaurant.

Appetizers were passed while we mingled, then we went on short tour of the store, and then we sat down to dinner. It was all good, but as far as I'm concerned, the star of the show was the gnocchi. Or rather, it was the sauce the gnocchi was sitting in. It was a corn sauce, and bright yellow.

Amanda Hesser said to me (yes, she was sitting next to me), "what do you think makes it so yellow?" Because, really, it was yellower than you'd expect from fresh corn. I thought about that for several days and couldn't come up with an answer. I had a few ideas, but I knew I needed to experiment. Sometimes I think better while I'm cooking.

I picked up a whole lot of corn, and proceeded to experiment. I didn't need a corn sauce, so I decided to make a corn soup instead.

The first thing I tried to get the bright yellow color was saffron. But no, it wasn't yellow enough and I was already detecting the flavor. I didn't notice saffron in the sauce at the dinner, so I knew that was wrong. But what? Something made it a bright yellow.

Granted, I was starting with peaches and cream corn rather than all yellow, but still I didn't think that was enough to make the difference. I had a few crazy ideas, but discarded them. What would Whole Foods do (WWWFD)? I mean, I know they weren't going to throw in food coloring.

And then the light bulb lit. You'll see.

I have no idea if this was really what Whole Foods did to get their sauce that pretty yellow, but I like the result I got. Maybe I'll squeeze the recipe out of them, but until then, I'm pretty darned happy with this.

Corn Soup

16 ears corn
1 cup milk
4 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon salt
1 carrot, peeled, sliced, and cooked until tender

Cook 2 ears of corn, as usual.  Cut the kernels off the remaining ears of corn and srape the cobs to get all the remaining juice out. Put all those kernels in a saucepan. Add the milk, butter, salt, and carrots. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring as needed, until the mixture is hot and the corn is cooked.

Use a stick blender to puree the soup, or puree it in a blender or food processor until it's smooth.

If it's not silky-smooth, pass it through a fine strainer. You probably won't end up with anything in the strainer, but passing it through will make it a lot smoother. Taste for seasoning and add salt, if needed. Add more milk, of you'd like a thinner soup.

Cut the kernels off one of the cooked ears of corn. Serve the soup hot, and garnish with some of the cooked corn kernels.

This soup is also good cold, if you like.

You did the math, right? There's one ear of corn left. Well, no, there isn't. I ate that one.