From my bag of treasures from yesterday’s Farm Market, we made corn on the cob for dinner last night. This is, by far, the freshest corn we’ve had this season. You know its going to be good when you put a hole in a kernel and the juice is sticky like sugar.
We don’t really have room for a grill, what with the herbs, tomato and pepper plants taking up the patio, so I opted to just boil the corn on the stove.
Since I was buying this at the special Michigan Farmer’s Market and since the signs on the stand said “picked last night!” I didn’t really have to consider how fresh this corn was. BUT, if you are out shopping and don’t know when the corn was picked, consider the color and texture of the husks. Green and pliable is best. Also, the softer and lighter the silks are, the fresher the corn. Lastly, peel back a little bit of the husk and pierce a kernel with your fingernail. If the liquid is a little cloudy, its probably fresher corn. One thing you shouldn’t do is peel all the husks off at the store. I admit that leaving the mess there is nice but your corn will like you better if you keep the husks on till you get home.
Besides, if you want to grill your corn, you can use the husks as free wrappers. There are a few variables to consider when grilling corn on the cob.
- Husk removal: You can take them all off and wrap the corn in foil. Or you can peel off all but the innermost 2-3 layers. That is what I do. You will want to peel back all the layers enough to remove the silk before you throw them on the grill. If your husks won’t stay on, use a little piece of kitchen twine around one end or create a tie with a narrow piece of husk.
- To soak or not to soak: SOme people soak their ears (of corn!) in water prior to grilling. I can go either way on this one depending on time and type of grill. The water will help to steam the corn which can speed cooking along. But you lose some of the “grilled” flavor. Not so important on a gas grill but with a woodfire or wood chips, you might want to consider not soaking or a minimal soak.
- Flavor enhancement: Grill them plain or add spices, herbs, oil or butter. WHen I’m really feeling ambitious, I’ll mix up a flavored butter which I then smear on the ears (under the husks) prior to grilling. Serve with more butter at the table. Some people prefer oil on the grill then topped with butter.
Since we just boiled ours last night, it was a really simple process. Boil a big pot of water. Add salt. Toss cleaned ears in pot, let boil 5-10 minutes. Done.
On the subject of salting the water, I read something at The Sustainable Kitchen about the proper salting of food. This was a hurdle for me, when learning how to cook. I grew up in a household that minimized using salt due to blood pressure concerns. Overtime, I learned to prefer low-salt versions of some things and my palate adjusted to the point where many common processed foods were too salty. I still prefer low-salt peanut butter and I would still buy reduced sodium canned goods because I’d rather add the salt myself. BUT, I do add salt now. I had to readjust my tongue but now I understand that foods should taste better- brighter and stronger, not salty, when properly seasoned. Alton Brown once referred to salt as a flavor enhancer not a flavor in itself. And we all know that Alton is a genius.
By the way, Mr. Brown is a fan of kosher salt which I also use. But lately I’ve become enamored of sea salts. Nothing fancy although there are some gourmet sea salts available. I use the fine texture and had found that it works well to pre-season meats but also as a table salt.
We ate our corn with a cranberry-brie stuffed chicken breast from The Fresh Market. I was really not excited about the chicken- not enough stuffing, never did find the brie and it took much longer to cook than indicated on the directions. I was saved from having to cut through the ties and lose all the juices by my handy-dandy probe thermometer. Another Alton Brown referral. You set the target temp, insert the probe and set the timer to beep when your targeted temperature is reached.