For one week only we are re-titling to “What’s Lingering” due to the featured produce choice of corn. While the peak was a few weeks back, tons of local corn is still in the markets and much of it is delicious. As per usual, the best recommendation is to get it fresh from a farmer – please know that this time it is more crucial than most. Corn that is not one of the supersweet varieties, which are often grown in Florida and other agri-centers that ship great distances, tend to have more corn flavor, but also lose their sweetness rather quickly . At least one farmer at the Union Square Greenmarket trucks in two batches a day during the high season to maximize freshness. Really fresh corn does not even need to be cooked; numerous restaurants around town, including Lupa, which served a memorable bowlful at last summer, serve it raw in salads. Since corn is cheap don’t be afraid to buy extra ears to experiment with at home. You can turn corn sliced off the cob into a myriad of salsas, vegetable side dishes, pastries, sauces and even ice cream. This buying mindset also frees you from peeking and peeling ears at the stand to try and find the perfect two for dinner. Should you buy a few lots of the standard “5 for $2.00” pricing who cares if a couple are malformed or otherwise less desirable.
As far as time of the year goes at this point, the only regret is that the easiest, tastiest and least messy cooking method of grilling is not pervasively occurring every weekend at various far-flung locales. Take solace that by following the directions below you will be rock stars of your 2007 Summer BBQ’s. For cooking preparations indoors, our fallbacks are boiling for whole ears and pan sautéing raw kernels cut from the cob. Some ideas for dishes are detailed after the jump.
Like pasta, use plenty of water. Unlike pasta, do not add salt to the water as it toughens the kernel. Works similar to beans in that the skin toughens up and proper cooking does not take place.
Cook in rapidly boiling water for until tender – about 6 minutes – remove from water, add fine sea salt and butter.
You can also cool the cobs, cut off the kernels and make corn salsa by adding sea salt, limejuice, cilantro, minced onion and both roasted and fresh green chilies. Try grilled corn for the salsa as well.
Start by cutting the kernels off the cob in a careful manner. Be careful not to cut too deep, but you will want to still get the maximum sized cut without hitting the cob. As it can be messy, use your largest cutting board, consider breaking the cob in half to keep it close to the board or tilt the cob down. We also line up the cobs to be cut and just cut around the edge of the board. Scrape each cob with the back of a knife to get all extra corn pulp and milk out.
Start with a hot pan filled with some fat of your choice – butter and pork fat being better options than oil. If you like garlic, add it now and then remove it from the fat before it browns. At this point add in whatever flavor profile you would like the finished dish to have. It can be anything from as simple as minced shallots in order to show off the corn flavor to forming a complex, homemade base for curry. A mainstay in the kitchen here is a simple version with garliced-up butter, shallots, minced red jalapeno and a bit of tomato – sometimes fresh oven dried ones. Other flavors that would go well in the simpler version of this dish are bacon, marjoram, parsley, tarragon, chanterelle or shitake mushrooms, and zucchini. Once the starting flavors have cooked a bit go to medium-high heat, add in the cut kernels, toss through and let set for 2 minutes. Add in water a tablespoon at a time and begin to stir a few times per minute. This will help steam cook the corn and make for moist kernels. Never let the dish get watery you want to cook till the pan is just dry about 1-4 minutes later. Total cooking time can be as little as 3 minutes and as long as 6 minutes or so. Keep tasting – another reason to buy extra – and find out just where you like your corn cooked.
You can use the simple cooked version of the corn sauté to toss in a salad, over pasta or as a base for simple grilled white fish or shrimp.
For grilling corn take the whole bag of corn to the outdoors and shuck it down to the last bit of husk. You will want to leave the last layer of husk on to serve as insulation for the cob in order to prevent burning. Soak in water for 30 minutes to moisturize the cob. Grill over medium to medium-high heat turning frequently to get a very good char without burning it to a crisp. You will be able to almost see through this last layer of husk to judge doneness. Once cooked, shuck remaining layer, add fine sea salt and butter, then enjoy. If you would, like to go for something more advanced once the corn is off the grill, visit here for numerous recipes for composed/compound butters and a recipe for Mexican grilled corn – be sure to use the crema and cojita cheese as opposed to the alternates offered.