Field to Feast: Corn

Does anything say “Summer’s here!” better than corn? When I spied it at the Bialas Farms booth a couple of weeks ago, I couldn’t believe my eyes — an early harvest! Apologies to the Christmas crowd, but I think this is the most wonderful time of the year, at least in the kitchen. (But if you can’t bear the thought of standing over a pot of water in this heat, please don’t miss Kasha’s brilliant idea to keep cool while cooking fresh corn. I can’t wait to try it.)

I like to get creative later in the season, when seeing corn at the market is hardly novel, but for the first ears of the year, I keep the preparation simple. That meant grilling it (in the husks, of course), heat wave be damned. Grilling in the husks is doubly beneficial: It keeps the kernels from getting too dry and leathery on the grill, plus there’s nothing like that smokey flavor you get from the charred husks to really turn corn into something special. Once it’s grilled, you can dress it any way you like; thankfully, changing the flavor profile is a pretty simple thing to do because it’s such a neutral base, which got me thinking…

Adding an umami flavor to corn is a popular way of dressing it up. Umami’s the savory “fifth primary taste” found in all sorts of foods — mushrooms, meats, anchovies, tomatoes, and aged cheeses, just to name a few. Kasha used this idea to delicious effect in her grilled corn with parsley-garlic butter and Parmesan recipe here, and Mexican grilled corn uses cotija cheese for a similar purpose, but I wanted something a little different. Then I hit upon miso, king of umami, and got to work on a couple of compound butters.

Roasted Garlic | Minimally Invasive

Sticking with the simplicity theme, I didn’t go crazy with ingredients. In fact, all of the ingredients are spelled out in the names: Roasted Garlic-Miso Butter and Gochujang Butter. I thought the corn looked unfinished once it was slathered with the butter, so I sprinkled the ears with toasted nori flakes (another umami-bomb).

Aaaand done. So simple and so rewarding.

Grilled Corn with Gochujang Butter | Minimally Invasive

And if this isn’t enough for you, check out a few of my favorites from previous summers:

Grilled Corn with Harissa & Honey | Minimally Invasive

Grilled corn with Harissa and Honey

Corn Chowder with Crispy Duck Skin | Minimally Invasive

Smoked Corn Chowder with Crispy Duck Skin

Shrimp with Sweet Curry & Coconut Creamed Corn | Minimally Invasive

Shrimp with Sweet Curry & Coconut Creamed Corn

Sweet Corn Frozen Yogurt | Minimally Invasive

And for dessert, how about some Sweet Corn Frozen Yogurt?


Grilled Corn in the Husks

Remove the very outer layer of husks from your corn and set them aside, then peel back the remaining husks without breaking them off. Strip silks from the cob. Season corn however you like (with olive oil, salt, a spice rub, etc.) or just leave it plain if you plan to use a compound butter later. Re-cover the corn with the attached husks, then use a strip of one of the detached ones you set aside to tie them off at the top. Roast over a hot charcoal fire for about 20 minutes, turning as the husks start to char. The outer husks will turn black and fall away while infusing the corn with the smokiness of the grill, but the inner ones will still protect the corn from the direct heat, so don’t worry. Once the corn is done, strip the ears bare and rub with compound butter, if using.

Roasted Garlic-Miso Compound Butter makes enough for six ears of corn

1 tablespoon white miso
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 medium head roasted garlic (or more, if you like)
1 sheet nori

Mash miso, butter and garlic together with a fork and slather on freshly grilled corn while it’s still hot. Toast nori briefly over an open flame, then grind in a food processor. Sift, then sprinkle the buttered corn with the sifted flakes to season.

Gochujang Compound Butter makes enough for four ears of corn

To make your own gluten-free gochujang, follow the simple recipe here. If you’re ok with wheat, it’s easily found at any Korean grocery.

1 tablespoon gochujang
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 sheet nori

Mash gochujang and butter together with a fork and slather on freshly grilled corn while it’s still hot. Toast nori briefly over an open flame, then grind in a food processor. Sift, then sprinkle the buttered corn with the sifted flakes to season.