To say I enjoy eating corn would be to grossly downplay the truth. I love corn, and I eat a lot of it during the summer. I will eat it raw. I will eat it pickled. I will eat it steamed, and grilled, and sautéed.
And while there are many corn recipes out there, most of my corntent focuses on overall strategies, rather than precise measurements and instructions. Corn season should be one of excess and abundance, but also one of simplicity. Corn is my lily, is what I’m saying, and I don’t like to guild what’s already golden. The following is a collection of my favourite things to do with corn.
Don’t overcook it
A lot of “recipes” for corn on the cob will have you boil (or microwave) the cobs for a whole five minutes, when half of that will do just fine. Modern corn is so sweet and so juicy, you only need to warm — rather than fully cook — it to bring out its best qualities. (Overcooked corn is mushy, yet tough — truly displeasing.) My favourite method is also the easiest: Just run the un-husked cobs under running water, wrap it in a paper towel, and pop it in the microwave until it’s just hot enough to melt butter (about 2 1/2 minutes).
Or skip cooking altogether and eat it raw
You could also just, uh, not cook it at all. I know I sound like the mum from War Games, but raw corn is really good! It’s sweet and and crispy, unmarred by heat (which converts the sugars to starch). You can slice it into salads, bowls of gazpacho, or tacos, or you can munch it straight off the cob. (Just make sure you’re working with in-season, sweet corn. Field corn won’t taste quite right.)
Pickled corn might be my favourite quick pickle. It’s sweet and tangy, and good on almost anything. I have added it to salads, to bowls of ramen, to quesadillas, and piles of fried rice. I have scooped it up with Doritos. I have mixed it into cheese dips. I have eaten it by the spoonful. Last night, I put it on my cucumber pasta, and found that it was good. I have two recipes: a “plain” pickle and a beer pickle (both are great).
Or poach it in a buttery milk bath
If you’ve grown weary of buttering individual cobs of corn, poaching a whole bunch in a buttery milk bath is a good option. This corn is slowly simmered in a mixture of butter, milk, and water to lightly coat the the kernels with a savoury oil slick. It’s good! (You can also add herbs, spices, and aromatics to the bath, if you wish to get fancy, and I bet you do.)
Make corn stock with the cobs
Now the party’s over, and your corn has been eaten, and you’re left with a bunch of seemingly sad and empty cobs. Those cobs, however, are not entirely empty — they are full of flavour, and you can extract that flavour to make a beautiful, golden stock, perfect for soups, risotto, and grits.
Or use the cobs to make corn milk (and bake with it)
If you want a creamier corny cooking (or baking), you can steep the cobs in hot milk to infuse the dairy with sweet, farm-fresh flavour. There are a lot of potential uses for corn milk, but my personal favourite is ice cream — corn ice cream is criminally underrated.
Steam a whole bunch in a big cooler
If you need to steam a truly obscene amount of corn (for a party or picnic), you can do so by turning a large cooler into a corn sauna:
All you do is chuck a whole mess of corn into a large cooler, add two kettles of boiling water, close the thing, and leave it the heck alone for half of an hour.
That’s it. You now have a whole lot of steamed corn to feed a whole lot of hungry people.
Or chuck it directly into so hot coals
If you like a little char on your kernels, skip the grill grates and chuck un-shucked ears directly into a bunch of hot coals. It may sound a little dangerous, but it’s actually a very forgiving method:
Cooking your corn in the husk protects each kernel from charing too quickly and provides a barrier to give them a natural steam bath. The result is an especially sweet, smoky corn on the cob.
It also looks (and feels) bad arse, which is a bonus.
Turn it into hominy
Grits — a top-tier food — are made from hominy, and hominy is made from corn, specifically corn that has been soaked in a basic solution in order to nixtamalize it. Nixtamalized corn (aka hominy) is more digestible, more nutritious, and — in my opinion — more delicious. You can eat it as a side, put it in pozole, or make your very own grits from scratch.
Blend it with condensed milk
This corn hack knows no season, because it utilises canned creamed corn and canned sweetened condensed milk. You blend the two together and strain out the solids, and you have a sweet and creamy corn milk (not to be confused with the corn cob milk a few slides back). Corn milk absolutely rules in iced coffee, but it shines brightest in corn milk punch.
Turn the canned stuff into a pasta sauce
You can also use the canned stuff to make a creamy, slightly nutty, surprisingly silky pasta sauce. Sauté the corn with garlic and onion to give it a bit of character, then blend it with pasta water before tossing it with your favourite noodles. It coats the noodles aggressively — almost like canned Alfredo — which sounds like a lot but is actually quite comforting.