Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Corn on the cob

It's really too early for local corn. That won't happen for at least another month, but the corn in the stores is very sweet and tender, particularly to someone who's as addicted to corn as I am. It's my all time favorite vegetable. I confess to having made more than one meal over the years with corn, dripping with salted butter, being the only dish on the menu!

When I was growing up, my mother would shuck the corn, discarding the corn silk and saving the inner leaves to place on top of the corn during cooking. She'd put the corn and a teaspoon of sugar into a large pot, fill it with water and place the leaves over the corn before putting the lid on and letting it boil for 15-20 minutes. Once ready, it would be served with tons of salted butter. The corn was served on separate plates so that one could continue to roll the corn in the melted butter before each bite. We even had tiny little forks you'd stick in either end so you wouldn't burn your fingers. Naturally they were in the shape of little corn cobs. That, of course, was in the days before everyone was concerned with cholesterol, trans fats, clogged arteries and other heart diseases. The only times I avoided corn was when I was breast feeding my older daughter and, again, when I was very pregnant with my younger one. My eating corn didn't agree with either of them!

In the last few years, I've looked longingly at corn, inhaling the smell of it in markets, enviously watching others cull through the corn bin to find the perfect cobs with straight rows of plump kernels, but refrained from buying it because I couldn't imagine it served without butter. Then I went to a multicultural festival at Harbour Front on the shores of Lake Ontario. Every summer there are festivals celebrating the various ethnic communities that make their home in Toronto. Naturally, in addition to music and dance, there are booths selling delicacies. One sunny Sunday afternoon, my husband and I were wandering through the food tents trying to choose between, West Indian roti, East Indian curry, falafel, and dozens of other delicious dishes from around the world. And then I discovered the most wonderful offering of all - corn on the cob, but not just ANY corn on the cob. This was a stand from Jamaica and the corn wasn't served with butter, it was served with Jerk or Cajun spices and a half a lime. You press the cut side of the lime over the spices and then, squeezing the lime, rub it over the corn. You can make it as spicy as you like, or mild enough to taste the tang of the lime against the sweetness of the corn. Honestly, it's amazing.

Now, although I love corn, boiling it does steam up the kitchen and on hot, muggy days who needs more humidity and heat!!! So over the years I've tried various methods of cooking corn on the BBQ. I've tried gently prying open the leaves to remove the corn silks, closing up the husks again and soaking them in cold water for at least an hour before placing them on the grill. I've tried cooking them after husking them, placing the cobs away from direct heat and tried the "wrapped in tin foil, rubbed with a little oil" trick as well. They all seem to taste like burnt popcorn to me. So here's what I do, particularly when summer is here with a vengence - like the past week or so.

1. Early in the day, I boil the corn, starting it out in cold water with a few of the inner husks (not the silk) to sweeten the water.

2. Once the water comes to a boil, I reduce the heat to medium low and let it cook it for 5 minutes.

3. Then I turn off the heat, leave the corn in the pot for another 10 minutes. Drain the water and cover. (I usually blast the air conditioner and stay out of the kitchen until it cools down. )

4. When we're BBQing, we just add the corn to the grill for a few minutes just before the rest of the meal is ready. This heats it up without having that burnt popcorn taste. If I'm not BBQing, then I pop it in the microwave for a minute. All without having a sauna in the kitchen.


Ruth Daniels said...

I am envious and it's a good thing that we can get some of your delicious corn up here in Toronto. By the time our corn comes in next month, I hope we can do the same for you.

You are right, though - there is nothing as tasty as corn picked that day.

FoodNinja said...

OMG.. I am gona have to try this... I love corn.. Cant wait till the farmers load up and come to town

Anonymous said...

Your corn photos are AMAZING!
I was so excited I forgot to look at the other stuff before I wrote this. Guess I'll have to send another comment later.
Love you. Bye.