"The sweet corn kernels are blended into a velvety soup with a touch of creamy coconut milk," says the Top Chef season 17 winner

By Melissa King
August 13, 2020 12:32 PM
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Jennifer Causey

Melissa King is the winner of Top Chef season 17. In this week's issue of PEOPLE, we asked chefs to submit their favorite recipe for our Best of All Time package. Read why King chose this winning vegetarian dish from the season, then get the recipe below to make it at home yourself.

We had a Top Chef challenge where we had to create a vegetarian dish with produce from the Santa Monica farmers market. This challenge was right up my alley. As a California-trained chef, I enjoy taking a humble vegetable and elevating it to another level!

I knew I wanted to work with sweet corn at the peak of summer, and decided to go completely plant-based with my dish by creating this corn-coconut soup. Soup is one of my favorite things to make—it’s seemingly simple but requires time to layer and build complex flavor.

In this recipe, the sweet corn kernels are blended into a velvety soup with a touch of creamy coconut milk. I even use the entire cob to make a flavorful base stock.

I won a Top Chef challenge with this soup, and I’m sure it’ll be a winning dish at home too.

Ernesto Ruscio/Bravo

Melissa King's Corn-Coconut Soup With Chile Oil

2 yellow onions

3 qts. water

4 ears fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs, cobs reserved

1 (1-in.) piece ginger, peeled and sliced

½ cup plus 2 Tbsp. canola oil, divided

¼ cup crushed red pepper

4 garlic cloves, sliced

2½ tsp. kosher salt, divided

1 (13.66-oz.) can coconut milk, well shaken and stirred

1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice (from 1 lime)

1. Thinly slice 1 onion; set aside. Cut remaining onion into quarters. Place water, corn cobs, quartered onion and ginger in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to medium, and simmer 1 hour. Pour stock through a fine mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl; discard solids.

2. While stock simmers, heat ½ cup oil in a small skillet over medium-high until shimmering, about 3 minutes. Place red pepper in a small heatproof bowl; pour hot oil over, and let stand 10 minutes. Pour through strainer into a heatproof bowl; discard solids.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium. Add corn kernels, sliced onion, garlic and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent and soft, about 15 minutes. Add 4 cups of the reserved corn stock; bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat to medium, and simmer 20 minutes, adding more stock as needed to keep mixture covered by about 1 inch. Add coconut milk and lime juice. Remove from heat.

4. Working in batches, pour mixture into a blender. Secure lid; remove center piece to allow steam to escape. Place a clean towel over opening. Process until very smooth, 3 minutes per batch. Pour into a large heatproof bowl. Add 1 tablespoon oil and 2 teaspoons salt to final batch before processing.

5. Pour soup through strainer into a pot; discard solids. Ladle into bowls. Garnish with croutons and cilantro, if desired; drizzle with chile oil.

Serves: 4

Active time: 50 minutes

Total time: 2 hours

Quick tip! Choose your own garnish: King likes croutons and cilantro but also suggests pickled shallots or diced roasted sweet peppers.