sweet corn can be done up a lot of different ways.
there were a signature summer dish of my childhood, it was
corn on the cob. Sweet, tender and juicy. Is there anything
better? My father loved it. Still does, though he doesnít
eat a half-dozen ears in a sitting as he once did.
then, on his way from here to there in the old Pontiac
station wagon, he would pull over at random roadside stands
at the slightest hint of corn for sale and, inevitably,
bargain for a better price ("At least throw in a couple
more ears," he would say, to our chagrin and the farmerís
home, the task of cleaning the corn fell to my siblings and
me, who grudgingly did so in the spot where we made the
least mess ó on the back steps of the porch, where the
corn silks could easily blow away.
that point, my mother took over what had now become a family
project. She reached for the pressure cooker, which in those
years had more of an element of danger than it does today.
Once it was filled with as many ears as possible and some
water, my mother would lock the cover in place and place the
pressure valve atop. Then she set a timer.
would watch at the dinner table as the valve of the pressure
cooker rattled away, whistling and jiggling like an
out-of-control rocket. The thrill was being so close to the
possibility of disaster should our mother be distracted. We
almost willed it to happen, if truth be told, because who
wouldnít want to see corn on the cob hit the ceiling. It
never did, of course, because my mother knew the time limits
that she had set in motion.
pressure cooker did, indeed, make great steamed corn, though
later, as a cook in my own kitchen, the mechanism felt far
more dramatic than necessary for such a simple meal. Not so
incidentally, it also seemed like too much work given that I
would first have to hunt for the pressure cooker, packed
away in a cupboard.
I turned to a simpler method. I slip the ears into boiling
water for but a brief bath, a minute or two only, just
enough to soften the kernels a bit, because they are already
tender. Itís my go-to method for a quick meal.
motherís approach, however, still guides my advance prep:
from farmstand to the stovetop in as few hours as possible.
If I donít need the corn until the next day, I wait and
buy it then.
nothing much better than steamed fresh corn on the cob. But,
as cooks, we always have to mess with perfection, which Iíve
done on many occasions, including the summer spent testing
every which way to grill corn. Like all "best
methods," mine reflects more personal preference than
it does absolute wisdom.
what I found: Keep it simple. This is natureís perfect
food. (Yes, Dad, you had that right.) Experiment with these
methods and find out what you like best.
corn. This is truly as easy as you can get. Toss an ear of
corn, still enrobed in its husk, directly onto the grill for
about 10 to 15 minutes, turning it occasionally. If thereís
a cover to your grill, use it. If youíre cooking over a
campfire, toss the corn in the embers to cook. The husk, in
effect, steams the corn, and also provides a hint of flavor.
husked corn. This is a little fussier method. Start out
grilling with the corn in the husk for 5 to 10 minutes. Then
pull back the husk and silks, and baste the corn with melted
butter (flavored or not). Either fold back the husks before
you return the ear to the grill, or leave the kernels
exposed to the heat for a few more minutes.
corn. My favorite method! In this case, remove the husk and
silks and place the stripped-down ear directly on the grill,
with or without basting it with melted butter. Cook the corn
until itís lightly browned ó how long will depend on the
cook and the intensity of the coals. The kernels arenít
quite as tender as with other methods, but the smoky flavor
is just what Iím looking for.
donít have to cook fresh corn at all. We love it raw in
salsas and salads, though that smoky taste from grilling can
certainly perk up the flavor quotient in either dish.
to boil or steam your corn? Salt toughens the vegetable so
do not add it to the water. And if youíre boiling the
corn, bring the water to the right temperature before you
add the cob, again so the kernels donít toughen.
course, you can also roast corn in the oven. But why would
you do that on a hot day?
microwave works well if only one or two cobs need to be
steamed. More than that and you might as well steam a bunch
of them on the stovetop. To microwave, place one or two ears
in a dish with a little water and cook on high (2 minutes
for one ear, 5 minutes for 2 ears).
as corn is, many of us reach for butter to gild this lily of
a treat. Flavored butters are one of those quick tricks of
the kitchen. Simply soften butter and add the flavorings.
Then either smooth the mixture into a container or roll it
into a log and wrap it in plastic wrap until itís time for
guests to cut off slices for their corn. Either way, store
it in the refrigerator.
flavor options: To 2 sticks of butter, add either 1 teaspoon
cayenne pepper or 1 teaspoon minced garlic or 1 teaspoon
minced chives or sea salt to taste.
the corn ready
Refrigerate unhusked corn in a loose plastic bag until you
need it, preferably for not more than a day.
Donít husk corn until you are ready to eat it.