chilled corn + fennel soup with crab
This soup highlights the sweetness of fresh summer corn, with a subtle anise flavor from fresh fennel. All of the scraps from the vegetables in this recipe are used to make an easy, and flavorful, homemade vegetable stock -- so you don't have to feel badly about wasting a thing. The recipe is a bit loose, and the consistency of the soup will depend on how much corn your 6 cobs produce -- luckily, it is easy to adjust by just adding more vegetable stock at the end. You can also omit the crab if you do not have access to fresh crab meat or would like to make this soup vegetarian.
for the vegetable stock + soup:
6 fresh corn cobs
1 fennel bulb (stalks and fronds still attached)
5 cloves of garlic [4 smashed and peeled, 1 peeled and minced]
2 bay leaves
2 large handfuls of roughly chopped fresh chives
2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
for the crab:
1 cup fresh lump crab meat
1 tablespoon chopped fresh fennel fronds
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon melted unsalted butter
First, prepare the vegetables and vegetable stock:
Corn: shuck the corn, and cut the kernels from the cobs. Place the kernels in a medium bowl and using the back of your knife, scrape the milk from the cobs into the bowl with the kernels. Set corn kernels and milk aside. Add the empty cobs to a large stock pot.
Leek: Fill a small to medium-sized bowl with cold water. Cut the dark green part of the leek from the white and light green portion. Slice the white and light green portion in half lengthwise and chop into thin half-moons [should measure about 1 cup of chopped leek]. Transfer the chopped leek to the bowl of water, using your hands to separate the pieces and allowing all the grit to sink to the bottom of the water. Once clean, remove leeks from the water and drain on paper towels. Set aside. Chop the dark green part of the leek into large pieces and add to the stock pot with the corn cobs.
Fennel: Remove the fennel stalks from the bulb. Reserve a few of the fronds for the crab and garnish, and chop the rest of the stalks into 3 - 4-inch pieces and add to the stock pot. Core the bulb and dice [I used a mandolin to slice a couple of pieces from the bulb before coring for garnish, but this is optional]. Measure 1 cup of diced fennel and set aside [this should be about 3/4 of the bulb, depending on the size of your fennel]. Add any remaining fennel to the stock pot.
To the stock pot, add the 4 cloves of peeled + smashed garlic, bay leaves, chives, peppercorns, 2 teaspoons of the salt, and 9 cups of water. Set over high heat, uncovered, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce heat to medium and keep at a fast simmer, uncovered, for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Drain the stock into another stock pot or large bowl and discard all solids. Set stock aside to cool.
While stock is cooling, prepare the soup: to a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 cup of the reserved diced fennel, the chopped and washed white and light green parts of the leek, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute, stirring frequently, until leek and fennel soften and start to caramelize, about 20 - 25 minutes. Add the remaining 1 minced clove of garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add reserved corn kernels and milk, and 2 tablespoons of butter. Saute, stirring until butter has just melted, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Add 3 cups of the reserved vegetable stock.
Working in batches, blend the corn mixture until smooth [making sure to only cover the blender with a kitchen towel so that steam can escape]. Depending on your preference, at this point you can adjust the consistency of the soup with more vegetable stock [remember to just add a little at a time -- you can always add more -- and also remember the the soup with thicken slightly as it cools]. Once your desired consistency is reached, pour the soup into a large bowl or stock pot, cover, and transfer to the refrigerator to chill until cold, at least 2 hours.
Once soup has chilled, prepare the crab: in a small bowl, combine lump crab meat, fresh fennel fronds, lemon juice, and melted butter. Ladle soup into bowls and spoon crab over top. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and garnish with flaked salt, fennel fronds and fresh chives if desired.