Tuesday, August 23, 2011

All You Need to Know About Fresh Corn

When I first moved to Europe in the 70s, it was impossible to buy fresh corn. For my annual traditional Thanksgiving, I would serve corn on the cob that came in cans, much to the chagrin of my European guests. They were unimpressed with the taste and appalled by the idea of eating it with their hands! The French would say, “Ma Cherie” – we give the Maize or how you say “Corin” to the Pigs - never to the humans!” They tolerated my story of the pilgrims learning about corn from the Indians, but I am afraid it only reinforced their ideas about American Indians as portrayed in the Hollywood Westerns they had seen.  In the 80s, Green Giant starting planting fields of fresh corn in France and we were able to get the real thing. I was thrilled on Thanksgiving when I could finally regale my guests with good tasting corn on the cob. And all over France corn started showing up on French tables. But – warm and never on the cob! It became a very popular ingredient in cold salads (which, alas, I had never seen before!). Of course now, corn salads and salsas are everywhere.  Below you will find what I learned about corn through the years and a couple of my favorite recipes for fresh corn – both hot and cold!

How to buy corn on the cob..
First, never buy pre-husked corn. The husk which should be bright green, moist, and fit snugly around the ear, helps keep the kernels moist. The silks should appear pale and moist (but not soggy). Peel back the husk just a bit and look for tightly packed kernels with a few undeveloped kernels at the top of the cob. This is a sign of very young corn which is when it tastes the sweetest. There are two main varieties of corn sold: “sweet corn” and “high-sugar hybrids”. Sweet corn contains about 16 percent sugar; high-sugar hybrids (developed in the 1960s to improve shelf life) contain much more - about 40 percent. These over sweet hybrids tend to be sold in supermarkets. Corn connoisseurs prefer the more complex taste and silky texture of traditional local sweet corn which you find at farm stands.  If you pierce a kernel with your fingertip; sweet corn produces a milky liquid and the hybrids a thin, watery liquid.  Sweet corn tastes best picked in the cool morning hours and rushed to the pot. The minute it’s harvested, enzymes inside the kernels cause the corn’s sweet sugars to start converting into less-sweet compounds. In just three days, corn can lose nearly half its sweetness!  
Storing Corn
To minimize sugar loss, you need to keep corn at cold temperatures. Like other produce, corn contains mostly water and eventually dries when left in the open air. To keep it juicy, leave the husks on and wrap a wet paper towel around the base of the ears; or stand the ears upright in an inch or two of water in the refrigerator and cover with plastic bags.
Cooking corn
Either grill corn in its husks for about 15 minutes or place husked corn in generous amount of rolling boiling water (unsalted because salt toughens the outer skin of the kernels and keeps them from softening during cooking.)
For just 2-3 minutes! If your corn shows signs of age (dry husks, mushy brown silks, shrunken kernels), boost its sweetness by adding some sugar to the boiling water.

Mixed Corn Salad
1 lb fresh ripe tomatoes, diced
2 medium cucumbers diced
1- 2 cups of corn kernels, cooked
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
1 avocado diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tablespoons of first cold press olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
freshly ground pepper and good sea salt

In the salad bowl, combine the garlic, salt, pepper and balsamic vinegar and whisk in the olive oil, one third at a time. Add the onions, corn kernels, tomatoes, cukes and avocado. Season.

Summer Corn Soup

3 cups whole milk
3 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut from cobs, cobs broken in half and reserved
2 tablespoons butter
1 large Vidalia onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 cups water
2 large fresh sprigs of thyme
2 fresh sprigs of rosemary
1 bay leaf
For the Garnish:
2 thick bacon slices, diced
additional kernels cut from about ½ ear of corn
1 scallion, thinly sliced
Crème fraîche (Or heavy cream)
Bring milk and corncob halves (not kernels) to boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep while sautéing vegetables. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion; sprinkle with salt and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes (do not let onion brown). Add corn kernels, carrot, celery, and garlic; cook until vegetables are soft, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water, herbs bay leaf, and milk with corncobs. Increase heat and bring to boil. Cover partially, reduce heat to low, and simmer 20 minutes to blend flavors. Discard corncobs, herb sprigs, and bay leaf. Cool soup slightly. Working in batches, puree soup in blender until very smooth. Strain into large bowl, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Season soup to taste with salt and pepper (this can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)
Garnish: Cook chopped bacon in small skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels and transfer to a small bowl. Mix in corn and scallions. Warm soup over medium heat and pour into bowls. Mix in a tablespoon of crème and sprinkle garnish. and serve.

No comments:

Post a Comment