Summer Fest: Gettin’ Corny!

by Chef Mark Tafoya

I’m so excited to be the one to post this week’s Summer Fest entry, because I’m often accused of being corny. This is my chance to OWN IT!

It’s that time of year again when we are up to our EARS in corn, and we find ourselves looking for ways to use it all. Growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico, I spent every summer on our family plot, where we had a small orchard and an acre that we planted as a garden. In addition to tomatoes, zucchini, yellow squash and green chile, every year we planted corn, and it really was as high as an elephant’s eye! Of course, all these ingredients go into the classic New Mexican Calabacitas, a popular recipe we have here at The Gilded Fork, and one that’s very dear to my heart. (I’ll be sharing it along with other recipes from my childhood at ShareYourPlate.org, a new project I’m starting with a bunch of my blogging friends. Go check it out!)

In the middle of summer, when the bounty was huge and we didn’t know if we would survive another corn-filled week, we’d struggle to find ways to use the fresh corn, as well as preserve it for the winter. There was nothing like fresh-cut corn blanched lickety-split, then chilled fast and put into freezer bags and frozen so we’d have that sweet, fresh taste in the winter. I’m sure many of our fellow food bloggers and Summer Festers will be doing write ups on how to preserve it (see the links below), so I’m going to give you some tips for grilling and using it fresh!

We’ve also posted a corn dossier fresh from our test kitchen, which includes tons of other ideas and recipe links.

  • Buying Corn: There’s nothing so sweet as freshly picked summer corn. Like many other vegetables, once picked, the sugars start to convert to starch, and most supermarket corn just doesn’t taste as sweet. So if you can, buy your corn fresh picked at the farmer’s market. Some farmers I know even eat it raw right off the cob in the field, while it’s still sweet as candy!
  • Grilling Corn: Some people like to roast their corn on the grill or in the ashes of a bonfire with the husks still on. Here’s a tip for making that easier: You can gently peel back the husks without ripping them all the way off, then remove as much of the corn silk as possible. Put the husks back into place and soak the ears of corn in water for about 1/2 hour. This will create steam once they’re on the grill or in the ashes, and cook the corn, while protecting the flesh from burning. This method isn’t really my style — I love it grilled and caramelized, so I remove the husks and silk, and give my corn some color!
  • Roasting Corn: The best thing ever is fresh roasted corn w/butter, salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. If you’re not firing up the grill, you can roast it under the broiler in your oven until nearly blackened. Drizzle with a little olive oil first, with just a dash of the spices, and turn once each side has blackened. Don’t be afraid of getting it black! To serve, use butter and more of the spices. You can even do this with tongs on the direct flame, but do it naked and add the butter and spices after. Here’s one of my audio tips telling you just how to do it: Fire Roasted Corn
  • Elote: If you want it really Mexican style (we call it elote): After grilling your corn, mix about 1/4 cup mayonnaise with the juice of 1/2 lime, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika or chile powder and salt to taste. Brush the mixture all over the corn. Then roll the corn in crumbed white cotijo anejo Mexican cheese. Que Sabroso!

Grilled corn photo by Alan Barnett

Here are some other great corn recipes:

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Tropical Corn, Black Bean, and Mango Salad with Honey

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 15 oz. can black beans
salt, to taste
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar (or cider vinegar)
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
3/4 teaspoon cumin
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 medium jalapeño pepper, minced
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 ears of freshly grilled corn
1/2 cup sliced scallions
1 tablespoon minced cilantro
1 ripe mango
1 red onion, diced

Preparation

Whisk together lime zest and juice, vinegar, honey, Dijon mustard, cumin, garlic and jalapeño. Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while constantly whisking (the mustard helps to create an emulsion). Taste and adjust flavorings with salt and pepper as necessary. The dressing should be tangy and sweet, with a slight kick from the jalapeño. Dice the mango into 1/4″ dice. Cut corn off of the grilled ears and mix with the black beans, green onions, red onion and cilantro. Toss with just enough of the vinaigrette to coat. You can have more vinaigrette on the side when serving.

Photo by Bill Dreitlin

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Butter-Baked Corn

Serves 4

Ingredients

6 ears fresh corn
2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 tsp kosher salt (for the top)

Preparation

Preheat your oven to 400° Fahrenheit. Using a corn creamer placed over a large, wide bowl remove the kernels and juices from the corn. Make sure you scrape the corn a few times on each side, working closely to the cob.

[Chef’s Note: If you don’t have a corn creamer, take the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife, then use the back of the knife to scrape the additional flesh and “milky juices” into the bowl.]

Once you have finished the corn, add the salt and stir to combine. Pour the corn into a clean 7 x 11-inch baking dish, being careful of the sides, as any bits that splatter up tend to burn.

Smooth it out carefully, add the butter and sprinkle with a bit more salt.

Bake for 40 to 45 minutes at 400° Fahrenheit, or until the corn is bubbly and the edges turn golden brown. Once done, remove from the oven and let rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Santa Fe Corn Fritters

Serves 4

Ingredients

5/8 cup flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon sugar
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 tablespoon coriander, ground
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
1 1/4 pounds corn
1/8 cup green onion, minced
1 small onion, diced fine
1 1/4 tablespoons cilantro, minced
1 small garlic clove, minced
oil (for frying)

Preparation

Sift together the dry ingredients: flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder, and coriander. Mix eggs, corn, onions, cilantro, and garlic together. Then add to dry ingredients, stirring just to combine. Place oil (1/2″ deep) in a large skillet. Heat over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 350° Fahrenheit. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot oil and cook till golden on all sides and cooked through middle. Drain well on several layers of paper towels.

Recipes by Mark Tafoya

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Here’s what our other Summer Fest friends are doing with corn. You can also follow along on Twitter with the hashtag #summerfood.

Margaret Roach: Away to Garden
Vintage corn Americana slideshow, and no-frills creamed corn

Michelle Buffardi: Cooking Channel’s Devour/The Blog (Scripps)
Browsing Corn Porn
@mbuffardi

Alison Sickelka: Food2 blog (Scripps)
Freezing Corn
@ali_s

FN Dish: Food Network
Creamed Corn-Off: Battle of the Southern Cooks

Healthy Eats: Food Network
Candied Corn and 4 more easy recipes

Cate O’Malley: Sweetnicks.com
Corn and Spinach Stuffed Portobello Mushroom Caps
@cateomalley

Paige Smith Orloff: The Sister Project
Memories of Corn Pancakes Past
@paigeorloff

Diane and Todd: White on Rice Couple
BBQ Chicken and Fresh Corn Pizza
@whiteonrice

Kelly Senyei: Just a Taste
Caramel Corn (plus pics of corn in its various popping stages)
@justataste

Caroline Wright: The Wright Recipes
Pickled Corn with Summer Onion and Basil
@chefcaroline

Caron Golden: San Diego Foodstuff
Chino Corn Risotto with Chanterelles and Burrata
@carondg

Tigress in a Jam
Cream Corn Scones (the perfect way to use up left over roasted or boiled corn)
@tigressjampickl

Alana Chernila: Eating from the Ground Up
Corn on the Kabob (a recipe from her artist husband)
@edability

Judy: Divina Cucina
Fried Polenta Crostini with Porcini Ragu
@divinacucina

Shauna Ahern: Gluten-Free Girl and the Chef
Sweet corn risotto (and how to make corn stock with husks and mirepoix)
@glutenfreegirl

Tara: Tea & Cookies
Farro Corn Salad with Tomatoes and Fresh Herbs

Nicole: Pinch My Salt
Creamed Corn with Bacon & Rosemary
@pinchmysalt

HOW YOU CAN JOIN IN SUMMER FEST:
Each Wednesday for the rest of the summer (and probably longer), a group of blogging friends including those above will swap our recipes and tips about the following harvest-fresh ingredients. Here’s the schedule:

7/28: Cukes ‘n Zukes
8/4: Corn
8/11: Herbs, Greens and Beans
8/18: Stone Fruit
8/25 Tomatoes

We each post something and then link to one another, so that you can travel around the combined effort, gathering the goodies. Sharing makes the experience even better, so if you have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes, you can do either of the following:

  • Leave a comment on participating blogs with a link to your recipe/tip
  • Publish a post of your own, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2010 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt Armendariz of Mattbites)

We hope to see you in the kitchen!