Whether we are eating our corn on the cob, roasted and slathered with fresh hot butter or shucked in a hearty side, there's so many ways to enjoy this sweet or savory ingredient in the summer.
"I love using corn in my dishes due to its versatility. Different corns vary in flavor, such as silver queen corn, nice and sweet. How you prepare it can totally influence it's flavor as well. Oven roasting it with the husk on almost gives a flavor of hay. Grilling it makes it deliciously smoky and sweet. Or you can cut it off the cobb and make cream corn," says Mel Toledo, owner and chef of Foundation Social Eatery, just outside of Atlanta.
Picking a Husk
It's the summer time and everyone is having a BBQ at least once a week. Buy some local corn and get grilling! When you are choosing the corn, look for a deep yellow color and firm corn kernels, says Paige Hospitality Group's Corporate Executive Chef Stephen Yen. "The corn husk should also be fresh, when you peel it back you should hear a snap at the end. If the husk is wilted or discolored that's a sign that the corn has been off the stalk for too long," says Yen.
When you grill the corn you either want to leave the husk on or wrap the ears in aluminum foil. "We like to leave the husk on, because the water content will help the cooking process. In today's day you will also feel better by keeping the husk on instead of using aluminum foil because you're using less resources – it's all about "Going Green"! We suggest letting the corn cook off to the side, and not directly over the heating element. After about 15-20 minutes, check the corn. If it's ready, remove either the husk or aluminum and brush with butter, then place directly over the heating element for five seconds on each side," says Yen.
Shucking Your Corn
Not every dish will involve utilizing the cobb, in fact many don't. "Buy corn at the height of its growing season when it's most plentiful and delicious. Cook large quantities, de-cob and then freeze for year-round use. After you've cooked the corn and allowed it to cool, place a rimmed baking sheet in the sink. Cut the tip of the cob to create a flat end," says Kerry Dunnington, chef and author of two new cookbooks, Tasting the Seasons: Inspired, In-Season Cuisine That's Easy, Healthy, Fresh and Fun and This Book Cooks: Farm-Fresh Traditional Recipes for Healthy Contemporary Cooking.
"With a sharp paring knife (starting from the top) slice the corn as close to the cob as possible (you can usually cut about 4 rows at a time), removing corn until you've reached the bottom of the cob. Do this until you've finished removing all the kernels from the cob. With the dull side of the paring knife, use the same technique to extract the heart of the kernel from the cob. I freeze corn in one- and two-cup portions (it can be a bit difficult to separate fresh corn once frozen into portions)," says Dunnington. This helps when you need a certain measurement in recipes.
Indian food may have a reputation for bringing the heat, but the fresh seasonal ingredients of James Beard Award-nominated chef Meherwan Irani's recipe for Chai Pani's corn bhel provides the perfect balance of simplicity and flavor. Composed of a colorful mixture of sweet roasted corn, cucumber, cilantro, tomato, onions and flour crisps (puris) tossed with cilantro-cumin-lime dressing, this vibrant medley puts a fresh and tangy twist on a summer salad.
- 4-6 medium size ears of corn (husk on)
- 1 cup diced red onion (approx. 1 medium onion)
- 1 cup diced, cored and seeded cucumber
- 1 cup diced Roma tomatoes
- 1/2 cup fresh roughly chopped cilantro (discard stems)
- 3 or 4 mint leaves, thinly sliced into strips (chiffon)
- 2 Cups of pita chips, tortilla strips or croutons*
- Cumin lime dressing (recipe below)
- Chai Pani uses corn poha (Indian cornflakes), usually available at most Indian grocery stores
- Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Roast 4 medium size ears of corn (with husk on) in the oven on a baking tray until the husk can be peeled back to reveal lightly browned corn kernels; approx. 40 minutes. \When corn has cooled, shave the niblets off into a bowl. Add the diced cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, cilantro & choice of crackers into a bowl. \Add cumin-lime dressing to taste and toss like a salad.
Cumin Lime Dressing (makes approx. 1 quart)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1 1/2 cup light olive oil or canola oil (don't use virgin olive oil - the taste will overpower the recipe)
- 3/4 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 3/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
- 1/4 cup of finely chopped red onion or shallot
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 1/2 tsp. of ground cumin
- Put all ingredients, except for olive oil, in a food processor and puree on medium-low speed.
- Once ingredients are pureed, turn processor to medium-high and add the olive oil in thin stream until fully incorporated (emulsify).