Sunday, July 15, 2012

Cow Corn and Sweet

Growing up, I never ate sweet corn.  Since our farm raised lots of cattle, we grew acres and acres of field corn, which is tougher than sweet corn and less sweet. My father always scoffed at sweet corn, saying it had little taste or texture. I would have felt disloyal disagreeing.

When the first corn of the season ripened, we sometimes ate an entire meal of corn. We simply boiled it and served it with butter. The butter was spread on chunks of bread, which were then rubbed over the hot kernels. Or, a stick of butter was placed on a flat plate and then we would take turns rotating our ear of corn into the surface of the butter.

Until I was in high school, I assumed everyone buttered their corn that way. What a shock to see that some people tried to butter their corn using knives, which seemed to me to be a losing proposition. The butter just slid off the knife. A few people owned little gadgets to spread their butter, but these  seemed a bit precious. Someone once gave me such a tool. It looked like a slightly flattened spoon with slots in it. You stuffed the butter into the spoon, and then rubbed the back of the implement over the hot kernels. The heat melted the butter, which then oozed out through the slots. It was a lot of work compared to the methods I was used to, and there was more clean-up.

Last night, I grilled corn for the first time. I tried Mark Bittman's method, which is to just place the husked ears on the grill and keep turning them. Although the corn was very tasty, it was slightly dry and chewy, very reminiscent of the cow corn of my youth. His sauce was tasty, but I guess I prefer my corn quickly boiled and then buttered.

However, I used my leftover grilled corn to make corn relish, and the dry, chewy kernels were wonderful in that dish. Basically, I cut the kernels off the cob and threw them into a bowl with all sorts of chopped vegetables: onion, green peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes. I had some leftover black beans, so I threw those in, too. Then I made a simple dressing with oil, vinegar, lime juice, chili powder, chipotle, fresh cilantro, salt and pepper. I let it sit for an hour or so in the refrigerator and then enjoyed it for lunch with corn chips and guacamole.

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