I live for fresh corn on the cob in the summer – I’m a Midwestern boy, born in Wisconsin and raised in Ohio. At the start of corn season, I’m a minimalist – boiled (for exactly 4 minutes!) or grilled are the only two ways I will make corn. In other words – don’t mess it up, and let the corn flavor shine through.
As happy as I am with simply cooked corn, as August passes and we begin September, I start to want some variety. What can I do that is different, but still does justice to fresh corn?
Pull out my trusty pressure cooker, that’s what.
Cutting the kernels from the corn
I could not believe how much corn flavor the pressure cooker extracts from corn cobs. This is summer in liquid form. I don’t want to mess it up, so I keep the rest of the ingredients simple – a little bacon, a sautéed onion, and salt and pepper. Everything goes back in the pot for a second blast of pressure to cook the corn kernels, and I have a soup that is the essence of corn.
Now, I use bacon in this recipe, because…well, because bacon. I love the salty, smoky undertone it adds to soups and stews. If you really don’t want to add bacon, substitute 2 tablespoons of butter.
Make the corn cob broth: Peel the corn, then cut the kernels from the cobs. (I set a small bowl upside down in a plate to use as a corn stand while I slice down the sides with my chef’s knife.) Set the kernels aside for later. Put the corn cobs into the pressure cooker pot, breaking them in half to help them fit. Sprinkle with the salt, pour in the water, add the bay leaf, and lock the lid. Pressure cook at high pressure for 15 minutes in an electric PC, 12 minutes in a stovetop PC, then quick release the pressure. Remove the lid carefully - the hot steam can scald - then discard the corn cobs and strain the broth into a large bowl. (I use a spare pot for my pressure cooker.)
Cook the bacon:Wipe out the pressure cooker pot with a paper towel. Add the diced bacon to the pot and turn the heat under the pot to medium (sauté mode in my pressure cooker). Cook the bacon, stirring often, until it is browned and crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon from the pot with a slotted spoon, leaving as much bacon fat behind as possible. Set the bacon aside for later.
Sauté the onion: Add the diced onion to the pot and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Let the onion cook for a minute to start releasing liquid, then scrape the bottom of the pot with a flat edged wooden spoon, loosening all the browned bits of bacon into the onions. Sauté the onions, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits, until the onions soften, about 5 minutes.
Pressure cook the soup: Stir the corn kernels into the onions, then stir in the corn cob broth. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker and pressure cook at high pressure for 3 minutes (in both an electric or stovetop PC). Quick release the pressure. Taste the corn soup for seasoning - mine needed another teaspoon of fine sea salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve, sprinkling the bowls of soup with the browned bacon.
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