Wednesday Food: Corn Two Ways
I want to use this week’s post to highlight the most ubiquitous crop of the Midwest: corn. In an attempt to identify where corn belongs on the food pyramid, my minor research produced conflicting results. People all over the internet announce definitively that it is a grain, while others qualify it as grain only after the kernels have dried and before that point it is a starchy vegetable. It is a debate that could drag on without end, so I shift my focus to preparation and consumption.
A frequent and beloved approach to preparing corn is on the grill, buttered and seasoned within its husk (or with a generous shake of Tony’s), and cooked over indirect heat. The outcome in this case is most satisfying and the corn retains a high volume of juice while becoming laced with smoke from the barbecue. But the grill is not always on option, so it’s helpful to consult a trusted cookbook.
A recent addition to my collection was the Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley Cookbook. I’ve never visited the restaurant but hear good things and respect that they have been pursuing sustainability since 1983. It doesn’t hurt that the photography is beautiful, and the recipes simple yet sophisticated. Happily, Mustard’s is such a fan of corn that they recommend supplying your freezer with corn stock (which I immediately made, I only wish it looked less, well, uriniferous), to use in recipes such as summer succotash. This dish really incorporates the best of summer produce: corn, bell peppers, green beans, squash, and green onions.
Another recipe I recently came across was from the September issue of Gourmet, which offers a number of suggestions for late-summer produce. Rarely do I actually cook from this source (I mostly finger the pages until I reach recipes that always somehow antagonize me), but I couldn’t resist the cheesy creamed corn. Not only does it use a substantial amount of the grain vegetable in question, but also queso fresco and cilantro. The outcome is so good that I have now prepared it three times in the last ten days. Crunchy corn is suspended in a creamy corn matrix cut pleasantly by the bite of raw garlic and clean taste of cilantro. It is the perfect side dish for grilled meat. Follow the jump for both recipes…
For the cheesy creamed corn:
For the summer succotash:
taken almost exactly from Mustard’s Grill Napa Valley Cookbook (serves 6 sides)
- 1-1 1/2 cups green beans
- 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbs butter
- 3/4 cup minced scallions, white and pale green parts only
- 1 zucchini, diced
- 1 yellow or orange bell pepper, roasted, peeled, seeded and diced
- 1 1/2 cups fresh cut corn kernels
- 3/4 cup corn stock* or chicken stock
- 1/4 heavy whipping cream
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
Blanch the beans in boiling salted water for 5 to 7 minutes until crisp-tender. Drain under cold water to stop the cooking.
Heat the olive oil and butter in a large skillet over med-high heat. Add scallions and cook gently for one minute, until slightly soft. Add the zucchini, pepper, and corn kernels and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in the beans, corn stock, and cream and simmer for two to three minutes, until the liquid is reduced to a thick, creamy consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
- about 8 corn cobs (use kernels elsewhere)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 leek, white part only, sliced
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 whole clove
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 4 quarts cold water
Combine all the ingredients in a stockpot and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer, skimming when needed, 45 min to 2 hrs. Taste and, if flavorful, remoce from the heat and strain through a fine-mesh sieve.
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