The summerest of summer produce, if only for its barbecue traditions. Corn kind of gets a bad rap since its generous subsidies have contributed to the Spirited-Away-like transformation of Americans into pigs . That’s what I think about when I eat corn.
The Menu (Serves 5)
Fried Cod on Spoonbread with Corn Salsa
El Atol de Elote
First, prep the corn. I bought five white, five yellow. Shuck the corn and reserve the husks and silk. You can cook it however you want; roasting or grilling would probably be best but whatever! Leave 3 uncooked for the dessert.
Corn Chowder (adapted from here)
-4 ears corn
-1 extra ear yellow corn
-1 carrot, chopped
-1 leek, chopped
-2 cups milk
-1 cup water or stock
-1/2 red onion, diced
-1/4 red cabbage, chopped
optional: 2 oz bacon, ham, turkey gallantine
I did this goofy thing I read about where I tried to make stock out of the corn husks. It didn’t really make much of a difference. It was in a book, though, so if you want to see if it works, simmer the husks in water and salt in a large pot or dutch oven. the water will turn a golden color and smell a bit like raw corn. It took 2 batches for me to use up all the husks.
Heat olive oil in that large pot or dutch oven. Throw in the onions, leek, and carrots, with a bit of salt to sweat the onion. I put in the turkey gallantine at this point as well, because I somehow forgot it was going to be blended up. So uh if you don’t want pureed meat in your chowder, put it in later.
Cut the kernels off the cob, and when the onion is translucent, add the corn, a few shakes of chili powder, and the butter. Let the corn saute with the rest of the stuff for a bit. Throw a good pinch of flour into the pot, and stir it in. Add the milk and water/stock. Simmer. Once the corn gets soft, puree the chowder in a blender. Return it to the pot.
Add chopped cilantro, and chopped meat if you want it. This dish is good enough without, but bacon usually doesn’t hurt. Keep the chowder warm until dinner.
If you didn’t grill the corn, put the extra ear of yellow corn under the broiler until it blackens up a bit. Cut five disks of corn, 4-5 rows of kernels each. Cut slices of cabbage for longer pieces.
Bowl the chowder and top with a small handful of cabbage, and a corn disk.
Fried Cod on Spoonbread with Corn Salsa
-3 cups milk
-1 1/4 cups white cornmeal
-1 t baking powder
–2 eggs, beaten
Preheat the oven to 350. Grease a 9-inch pan or baking dish with some butter. Boil the milk in a large saucepan, stirring to make sure it doesn’t scald. Pour the cornmeal in, stirring as you do. It should incorporate fast, forming a polenta-like mixture.
Let the cornmeal cool off, then pour it into a bowl with the other ingredients. The recipe calls for a kitchen mixer with a paddle attachment, but I used a hand mixer and it worked fine. Just mix it up real good, and try to get it light and fluffy.
Pour the batter into the pan, and bake for an hour and twenty minutes. Check in on it near the end; when it’s browned on top and feels nice and crusty, it’s ready enough.
Chipotle’s Corn Salsa
-2 ears of corn
-1 jalapeno, minced
-1/4 red onion, chopped
-juice of 1 lime
-salt and pepper
-1.5 pounds cod
-salt and pepper
-4 cups salad mix
Cut the cod into five pieces. Salt and pepper both sides. Heat a shallow layer of oil in a large pan. When the oil is real hot, slide the fish into the pan. Cook about 3 minutes per side.
-3 ears corn, uncooked
-2 1/2 cups milk
-3/4 cup sugar
-1c whipping cream
Cut the kernels off the cob, and puree them in a food processor with some milk. Move the puree to a saucepan, and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring it to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes. It should thicken up to a smoothie consistency. Let it cool down a bit, until it’s at the hotter end of warm.
Whip up some cream. Puree the strawberries in a food processor with a bit of sugar, then stir it into the whipped cream.
Ladle out the corn stuff into small glasses (if you have some with a square pattern, they’ll look like little corn cobs!!), and spoon whipped cream on top of it. This will make a neat latte-like after dinner drink, that’s thick enough to serve as dessert as well.
These dishes worked out really well. It was probably the most consistently good meal I’ve made for this blog; everything went nicely. However, I feel like this was the least creative menu I’ve put together. Corn chowder isn’t anything new, the spoonbread doesn’t even have whole corn in it, and the salsa was a very small component. The Atol de Elote was really the only “unusual” thing I made. I guess my objective isn’t to make crazy stuff, but I was kind of disappointed with the menu. It just felt overly safe.
On the other hand, it really was good. The cod dish was incredibly satisfying; the spoonbread, which kind of just tasted like bland polenta out of the pan, turned out to be a great starch base. The soft fish paired well with the crispy top, and the softer parts absorbed the salad dressing and became tangy.
The chowder didn’t need meat, as I said. The cabbage added crunch and freshness to the rich soup, which was pleasantly spicy. I would have liked a smoother texture, but I don’t know how smooth you can get pureed corn, really. I just don’t like that texture too much. I had the same gripe with the Atol de Elote, but on the whole it was really delicious. It reminded me of hot chocolate and felt like something you would drink in colder months.
Coming off a knockout dinner like this, I feel confident enough to try some risky stuff for the next entry. Get ready for interesting failures!
Next week: Eggplant