When corn is at its peak, its earthy sweetness lends itself to a variety of preparations. If you’re going to be using cut corn kernels instead of corn on-the-cob, use the following technique to get maximum yield. Cut the cob in half, then with a paring knife, cut one row of corn kernels free, then simply run your paring knife down the half-cob while turning to release the kernels. Once you have cleaned the cob, you can “milk” it to gather the sweet corn juices that can and should be used in any recipe where the corn is being stewed or any liquid is needed. To do this, just put a cleaned corn cob in a bowl and use the back of your knife to scrape down the cob. This will release the sweet juices that are still hiding in the cob. Once you are done, you can even go one step further to get the most out of your corn…make a corn cob stock! After milking the cobs, throw them into a pot along with some aromatics like onion, carrot, bay, or thyme and a few black pepperCORNs and cover with water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to simmer for about 45 minutes, strain and use the slightly sweet stock as a base for corn chowder. If you want to add a slightly roasted flavor to the stock, you can char the husks lightly and throw those into the stock as well.
To get maximum sweetness out of corn, try it eating raw. Just slice off raw kernels and add to salads or earthy, savory dishes. For creamed corn, you really can’t do much better than Thomas Keller’s recipe. Melt a few tablespoons of butter in a pan over medium high heat and add your shucked corn (about 4 ears worth) and the juice of a lime (zest it before juicing) and turn down the heat to medium low. After all liquid has evaporated, add 1/2 cup of cream and the lime zest (and a pinch of cayenne pepper if you want to add heat) and cook for a few minutes. Season with salt and pepper and garnish with chives. You can also use shucked corn in sautés with other summer vegetables or with some cooked beans and bacon to make a delicious succotash. Add some shucked corn to your favorite chowder base just as the potatoes are done.
For something different try making a corn pudding. Sauté some corn with chopped onion or garlic and a little thyme in butter, then cool slightly. Whisk together a basic custard (2 eggs to 1 cup dairy. For this recipe you’ll want 2 parts vegetables to 1 part custard) and add some grated cheese (cheddar, parmesan, whatever suits your taste, even ricotta) a pinch of salt and sugar, and add the sautéed vegetables to the custard and bake at 350º in a water bath until the top is golden and the pudding has just set. Top with more cheese and some chopped herbs and serve with a roast. Or if you want something with a bit more texture, corn fritters are absolutely amazing. Whisk together 1 cup of flour, 1 t baking powder, 1 egg, 1/2 cup cream, a pinch of salt and sugar and add the shucked corn (you could even add chopped shallot, charred & diced jalapeño.) Drop the batter by the tablespoonful into oil that is 350º and fry until golden all around. Serve with a buttermilk dip spiked with a little pimentón.
The most popular preparation is also one of the best: grilled corn on-the-cob. If you are going to grill corn a little prep can pay off big time. Peel back the husks carefully, leaving them intact at the base. Remove as much of the silk as you can and smear with a little room temperature butter and sprinkle with salt, pepper, paprika/cayenne. Carefully pull the husks back over the ear and twist the top so it doesn’t peel back while grilling. Place on the grill away from flame so the husk doesn’t burn and turn every 10 minutes until the husk is brown all over. Then peel off and squeeze a little lemon or lime juice over it and eat immediately. You can also treat the grilled corn like elote by rubbing mayonnaise over it when it’s done and then dipping it in a mixture of ancho chile powder and salt and squeezing lime juice on it. If you’re looking for an easy stove-top preparation, throw cleaned ears of corn into a pot of boiling water (no salt as it can toughen the corn) for about 5-7 minutes and then dress with butter and salt when it comes out. Whichever way you choose to prepare it, enjoy it while you can!