By Chef Judi Gallagher –
You do not have to look at the heat index or even a calendar to know the sweet taste of summer is but a husk away. Growing up in Connecticut meant “pick your own corn” in the fields where enough rain would make the corn milk run into the stream below, making the aroma a tease for the farm-fresh taste of fresh corn. Whether you prefer white, yellow or bi-color – the latter my personal favorite – fresh corn has become something of a contemporary menu item at the trendiest American restaurants. The 1950s may have introduced frozen kernels of corn, but nothing can remotely compare to fresh-picked corn. Grilled or steamed, when cooked at its peak corn doesn’t even need butter and salt. Think out of the standard butter box and create a flavorful compound butter using chipotle peppers, chopped cilantro and zest of lime. However you enjoy your fresh summer corn, remember try to buy it on the same day that you plan to cook and serve. Look for bright green husks and yellow stalks.
Basic Corn on the Cob Cooking tips Grilling Corn Select the young corn, which is sweeter and will caramelize better when grilling. Most people like to grill corn on the cob in their husks or wrapped in foil. Leaving the husks on and letting them get charred will add a smokiness to your grilled corn and keep the moisture in. Soaking the husks fully intact in water for 5 minutes will prevent the husks from burning. Corn on the Cob will take about ten minutes on medium-high heat. Turn often and watch for flare ups. Leaving the long stalk also works as its own utensil to turn and lift off the grill.
Steaming Corn Just before cooking, husk the corn, pull off the silky threads, and cut out any blemishes with a pointed knife. Drop the corn into a large pot filled with boiling salted water. Cover the pot and let the water return to a boil again, then turn off the heat and keep the pot covered. After about 5 minutes, remove enough ears for a first serving. You can keep the remaining corn warm in the water for another 10 minutes without its becoming tough.
Cilantro-Lime Compound Butter 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 1 teaspoon cilantro, finely chopped 1/2 teaspoon fresh lime juice. Zest of half lime. Pinch of salt Mix together and store in refrigerator. Rub on fresh and hot grilled or steamed corn on the cob.
Fresh Grilled Corn Salsa
4 ears of corn
2 jalapeno peppers
2 vine-ripened, tomatoes, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 cup diced red onion 2 avocados, peeled and chopped
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic 3 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 tablespoon roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1 can drained and rinsed black beans
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
Splash hot sauce
Soak the ears of corn (in their husks) in a deep bowl filled with cold water for 1 hour, placing a plate or other heavy waterproof item on top of the corn to keep the ears submerged. Preheat grill to medium. Lay the corn on the grill and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, turning frequently, until the outer leaves are blackened. Grill the jalapenos for 5 to 6 minutes, turning periodically. Remove the corn and jalapenos from the grill and set aside to cool. Once the corn is cool, remove the husks and silk and discard. Cut the kernels off of the cobs and place in a large bowl. Stem, seed and finely chop the jalapenos and add to the bowl with the corn, along with the tomatoes, black beans, avocados, red onions, garlic, cilantro, mint, lime juice, olive oil, hot sauce and salt. Stir well to combine.
Sweet Corn and Basil Ice Cream This recipe is from one of New York’s finest eateries. There’s a trend among chefs today to flavor ice cream with savory ingredients. It’s an acquired taste for many.
3 cups half and half
Corn kernels shucked from 3 cobs (2 cups), cobs reserved
½ cup basil leaves, washed
6 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
In a large saucepan, combine half and half, corn kernels, and corn cobs (cut in half) over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes. Add basil and cook for another 15 minutes. Meanwhile, combine egg yolks and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until lighter in color and slightly thickened. Transfer mixture to a blender and blend on high for two minutes or until smooth. Pour through a fine-mesh strainer back into saucepan. Tip: If your blender comes with a plastic stopper insert in the lid, remove it and cover the opening with a few folds of paper towel. This will prevent hot liquids from bursting out the top. Quickly whisk yolk-sugar mixture into corn-basil base, and cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until mixture coats the back of a spoon and a finger swipe leaves a clean line. Add salt to taste. Strain into in an airtight container and let chill overnight. Churn into ice cream the next day according to manufacturer’s instructions.