2017-07-12 / News

Fancy Corn: Dress up a summer classic

Mexican street corn 
JENNY McQUEEN Mexican street corn JENNY McQUEEN Corn on the cob has been a summer food staple for generations. This simple, universal dish is versatile enough for veteran chefs, yet easily attainable by culinary newbies. Selecting the perfect ear makes you a part of a corn-loving tradition that dates back some 9,000 years, when corn – or maize – was first cultivated in southern Mexico. If you get the opportunity to connect with a local farmer or market vendor, inquire about some of the different varieties of this starchy vegetable. You can find as many as six available in U.S. markets: sweet, flour, flint, dent, popcorn and pod – each one offering advantages to different types of dishes and preparation. The average ear you obtain from the local grocer will most likely be sweet corn.

Choosing a good ear is important. You want your corn to be plump and sweet. Select an ear and give it a squeeze. No need to peel the husk back; if you can feel the grooves of the kernels inside within an inch of the top, you’ve picked a good one! Store your corn in its husk until you’re ready to cook it – this will help the kernels retain moisture.

I have two favorite methods for perfect corn on the cob: salt water boiled and grilled in the husk. Both will result in tender, delicious sweet corn.

For boiled corn, simply fill a large stock pot with water and about 1/3 cup of salt. While waiting for the water to boil, peel the corn, removing as much of the “fibers” as you can. When the water is boiling, drop your ears in the pot. Allow the water to return to a boil, cover the pot, remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes. Serve to corn lovers. For grilled corn, ready a large container with water, 1/3 cup salt and 1/2 cup sugar. (The sugar is a trick my mother taught me to sweeten up even lackluster corn; plus, it yields a slightly smoky flavor when it burns on the grill.) Add the corn, in the husks, and make sure they are submerged. This will require a weight, as corn floats (I suggest a pan to press the corn down, with a bowl of water on top for weight). Allow the corn to soak for a least an hour. Place the cobs, husks and all, on your grill over direct, medium-high heat. Cook for 7-9 minutes per side. Remove from the grill and carefully peel off the hot husks. The papery husks will be burnt, but the corn inside will be perfectly steamed. While the classic butter and salt is a go-to for cob-lovers everywhere, sprucing up this standby will bring your summer dining to the next level. Each of these recipes is written for 6 ears of corn.

JENNY McQUEEN JENNY McQUEEN lemon dill butter

½ stick room temperature butter
3 Tablespoons fresh dill, minced
1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Combine together and spread over
piping hot corn.

sweet balsamic glaze

½ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup maple syrup
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
Whisk together and drizzle over
hot corn.

This last one holds a special place in my heart: elotes, or traditional Mexican street corn. While I can’t speak to the origins of the dish, I can tell you that my love affair with elotes began on the streets of Chicago, the summer I moved there from Boston. You can find this simple cuisine in some Mexican restaurants around Chesterfield, but it always makes me think of food carts adorned with brightly colored umbrellas, meandering down city streets and making elotes to order.

mexican street corn

¼ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup sour cream
1-2 cloves garlic, finely minced
. cup cilantro, finely chopped
½ cup cotija cheese (if you cannot
find cotija, feta or even parmesan will
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 limes, cut into wedges

Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, garlic and cilantro. Spread over hot corn. Sprinkle with cheese and dust with chili powder. Finish with a squeeze of fresh lime juice and serve. Happy eating!

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