In his Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, Christopher Kimball writes of corn:
Although the supersweet hybrids are all the rage, I find that they lack the depth of flavor that I associate with older varieties. Last summer I planted a hybrid called Bodacious and it was extraordinarily sweet and light, but it was a bit like cotton candy; it melted in the mouth leaving a sweet but slightly unpleasant aftertaste. By comparing sugar levels, I realized that the new hybrids areally are much sweeter. Old-fasioned “sweet” corn has 5 to 10 percent sugar, “sugar-enhanced” corn is 15 to 18 percent, and “supersweet” is 25 to 30 percent. …[I am] abandoning the supersweets entirely.*
I’m not quite sure I’ve ever tasted corn of an older variety — anything other than supersweet (or, more likely, if I came across it sometime in the 1980s, the memory was erased by years of hairspray abuse). These days the ears we buy at the farmer’s market are no doubt supersweets — and yes, they are reminiscent of candy. Which means that when we cook them, we must balance out all that sweet with a heavy dose of salt or acid.
Our favorite ways to eat candy-sweet corn are either grilled or in a fresh corn salad. The former is easy if you’re grilling other things as well — but to get some caramelization you need a very hot grill, so plan to put your ears on first. Simply rub husked corn with a good dose of extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle generously with salt. Place ears directly on a very hot grill, turning often with tongs, until some black spots appear on the kernels. Let cool on a plate while you grill the rest of dinner, and then serve alongside — they need nothing else (in the photo, the ears have also been rubbed with Old Bay seasoning, a favorite of the Wine Benefactor [slash] Grill Master).
When the grill isn’t hot, or when you’re taking a side dish to a cookout, the corn salad recipe below (from Ina Garten) is ideal. A perfect side for almost any grilled protein, it has sweet, salt, and acid all at once. Fresh basil tossed in at the end makes this dish fresh and classic enough to take to just about every event of the summer where you can’t show up empty-handed. Bringing the grand total to TWO of Possible Dishes Katy Will Bring If You Invite Her To Your Cookout.
Don’t be shy about making the salad your own. A handful of this or that, fresh from the garden (I’ve added radishes and red peppers, and currently wonder what an avocado might do) is always welcome. Supersweet corn, it turns out, was bred for hospitality.
Recipe: Corn Salad
: From this recipe by Ina Garten
- 5-6 ears fresh corn, husked
- 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt (plus more for cooking water)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- handful fresh basil, cut into strips
- Bring a very large pot of water to a boil. Add 2-3 tsp salt, and the ears of corn. Boil for just 3 minutes, then remove ears to a large bowl of ice water (this retards cooking, important for retaining firmness).
- After corn has cooled, dry lightly on a towel. To remove the kernels, stand an ear on end inside a large bowl. Using a chef’s knife, cut down the sides of the ear, as close to the cob as possible. Repeat until all kernels are removed from cobs.
- To the bowl of corn, add onion, olive oil, vinegar, salt & pepper. Toss to coat. (To make ahead, complete through this step and refrigerate up to a few hours.)
- Just before serving, stir in basil.
Number of servings (yield): 6-8
*Kimball, Christopher. The Yellow Farmhouse Cookbook, p. 181
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