With all its components, the corn soup is a study in contrasting flavors and textures: the sweetness of the corn and the cornbread, the saltiness of the caviar, the creaminess of both the soup and the crème fraîche. Of course fresh corn is optimum here, but this soup can also be made with frozen corn kernels.
The creamy texture of a vintage or nonvintage California brut mirrors the rich character of this savory soup; recommended producers include Schramsberg, Iron Horse and Roederer Estate.
4 slices cornbread, or 2 corn muffins, tops removed and bottoms sliced into 2 rounds each
3 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (If using fresh corn, see Note below.)
3 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon arrowroot
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 teaspoons sevruga caviar, or to taste
2 1/2 tablespoons crème fraîche. or to taste
Fresh chives, chopped, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 250°F or set a toaster oven to the “toast” setting. Toast the sliced cornbread or muffins for 1 to 3 minutes, or just until the outside is slightly crusty, but not browned. (Watch carefully to make sure your muffins don’t color too fast.)
In a stockpot, heat the milk, corn, and cobs, if using, over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture steams. To prevent scorching, immediately remove the pot from the heat. Remove and discard the cobs. Strain the milk and corn through a fine-mesh sieve into a large bowl, stirring and mashing the corn kernels to release their liquid. When you’ve mashed all you can, discard the kernels. Rinse out and dry the stockpot and strain the corn liquid back into it through the fine-mesh sieve. Repeat once more if necessary. The liquid should be completely smooth.
Return the stockpot to the heat and add the butter, salt, arrowroot, and heavy cream. Stir to combine. Heat over medium heat for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes, or until the mixture steams. Again, remove it immediately from the heat to prevent scorching. The butter should be melted and the mixture should be thickened slightly. (If not, give it a minute off the heat.)
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls. Place a cornbread crouton in the center of each bowl: Top each crouton with about 2 teaspoons crème fraîche and 1 teaspoon caviar. Sprinkle with chives. Serve immediately, while the soup is warm and the crème is cold.
Note: If you are using fresh corn, hold the shucked ears vertically over a cutting board and cut downward to remove the kernels from the cob. Don’t throw away the cobs; cook them along with the kernels for a richer flavor.