The Fate of Sweet Summer Corn

11th Aug 2006

Dsc_0012 Both Nick and I are from the Midwest, proud of our work ethic and nice disposition, and find ourselves a rare breed out here in New York City.  I'm not really sure what the conception is--rural, uneducated, whatever--but most people have no idea what exactly goes on in middle of this vast nation, and just assume that most of it is comprised entirely of corn. Here is an example. The other day we were at a friend's parent's house, a big, leaning Victorian mansion on Staten Island, and this friend's mother could not help but inform us over three times that Indiana has "SO MUCH CORN! OH, SO MUCH CORN!"  What is there to say about such a statement?  Isn't that actually true? Well, yeah.  And when they're not growing corn they're growing soybeans to replenish the soil for corn again.  But why feel ashamed?  It is absolutely the best thing ever in summer, it's very cheap, completely easy, and it goes with practically any summer spread. Now the usual procedure is to toss all the cobs into some boiling water and hope for the best, but I think we can do better.  I heard once that the secret is putting it in the dishwasher without soap and running the regular wash cycle, which sounded like the most natural thing in the world to do except like most poor New Yorkers, I don't have a dishwasher.  But after a visit to Red Hook and seeing it grilled then coated with queso fresco , and later hearing about a simple recipe for putting it in the oven, I decided to try some other techniques to see what worked best. First, I tried Kristen's recipe: "I wash corn, pull the husks down just far enough to pull the silks off but that's not even necessary-- and use chile powder, salt, and cumin, I think, pull the husks back up to cover, and throw it in the oven sans pan. Turn it if you remember. The kernels just need to turn bright yellow." Dsc_0008 I did said things, including unhusking to pull out the silks, and it turned out wonderfully.  The husks were a papery brown, lending a roasted flavor.  I loved the cumin/chile spiciness, though you could season it with anything.  It was just slightly dried out, though it could be I overcooked it.  Next time, I'd leave the husks and silks intact to retain moisture. The next experiment was on the grill.  I'd done it once straight on the grate sans-husk, which allows the kernels to blacken and which is followed by a roll in queso fresco in some circles.  I think this has potential, but it's a delicate process, one that I completely messed up because I was worried about cooking the fish correctly and wasn't properly paying attention. The other day Nick and I tried cooking two ears with husks on the grill, one that had been peeled back and de-silked, the other literally just thrown down straight from the grocery bag.  These really came out perfectly, very moist and flavorful.  We turned them twice.  The one that had been opened had a smokier flavor but was no less moist, so that really depends on preference.  The other was equally juicy.  Best of all, it initiated no flashbacks to boyhood, when you'd get set up with a giant bag of corn, a garbage can between your legs, and be told to peel the corn leaving "none of the little hairs."  Depending on your levels of OCD, this could be quite a stressful process.  It was relieving to toss the whole thing on there and know it comes out marvelously. Anybody have other fun ways to make corn?


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