Summer welcomes corn to the table

by Don Bingham

There’s nothing like fresh corn! Whether it’s fried corn, corn fritters or iron-skillet cornbread, corn is a “must have” — everything in moderation, of course!

Summer corn is in season. Florida corn is available now, while most sweet corns are available from July 1 to the first frost.

In recipes like the one that follows, “Fried Corn” by Nathalie Durpee, the corn is really not fried but is called fried because it’s stewed in an iron skillet. The best kind of corn to use is field or country corn, which has colorful names like Silver Queen or Trucker’s Favorite. Field corn isn’t as sweet as what we call “sweet” corn, but its kernels are bigger. Sweet corn will also work for the recipe given (Fried Corn). The starch from the corn milk makes this a rich, thick corn dish.

You can make creamed corn without cream and still get what you want from the dish, the texture of cream and the flavor of corn. In fact, creamed corn without cream can be a distinct improvement on creamed corn with cream. Relying on the corn’s own starch for thickening guarantees that the dish will be plenty creamy. You can add chopped fresh cilantro, one large jalapeno chile, chopped or even freshly grated ginger — the choice is yours!

Cream-style corn can be a main dish with crumbled bacon added; cream of corn soup is a major crowd-pleaser; and grilled corn has been around as long as there have been backyard grilling feasts!

With the arrival of the local farmers markets, the opportunity for corn to grace our weekly menu will bring back memories of the bounty of the summer harvest.

Listed are some of our favorite corn dishes. It’s probably a “given” that you have your own handed-down, tried and true, favorite corn recipes. Enjoy this season as we welcome this historic vegetable to our dining pleasures. 

There have been many debates as to whether the ear of corn is a vegetable, fruit or a grain. We can agree with the debate, and for dining purposes in these recipes, we are calling corn a vegetable. It’s a great time to use that well-seasoned cast iron skillet, grill the ears on the outdoor grill or serve your favorite corn casserole.

Whatever your choice, it’s a lot like strawberries or cranberries — their season passes all too quickly, so enjoy while you can!

Gourmet Corn Bread

1 cup self-rising cornmeal
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
8 3/4 ounces cream-style corn
1/2 cup salad oil

Mix; bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes. Makes 12 muffins or one skillet.

Fresh Corn-Stuffed Tomatoes

6 ears fresh corn
2 tablespoons onion, grated
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
4 tablespoons water
12 tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Cut off corn; scrape back up ears to get juices. Place corn in skillet; add enough water to halfway cover the corn. Salt and pepper to taste; sugar to taste. Add onion; cook in iron skillet about 10-12 minutes. Mix flour with cold water until smooth. Add to corn and stir until thickens. In the meantime, core tomatoes. Salt and invert to drain. Fill with corn and bake 10-12 minutes. Serves 12.

Corn with Thyme

4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups light cream
2 cups whole kernel corn, drained

Melt butter in saucepan. Add flour, thyme and salt to form a roux, stirring constantly on medium to high heat; add light cream. Cook until thick. Pour over corn; stir. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 30 minutes. Serves 6.

Corn Pudding

1 can cream corn
2 heaping tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix ingredients together. Place in greased pan. Bake for one hour at 350 degrees. Serves 6.

Black Iron Skillet Cornbread

4 cups whole-kernel yellow cornmeal
1 cup unbleached white flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter or margarine
3 medium eggs
2 cups buttermilk

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl. Cut in all but 2 tablespoons of the butter or margarine thoroughly. Add eggs and buttermilk and beat until a smooth, thick batter forms. Melt reserved 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine in 10 1/4-inch black iron skillet (about 2 inches deep). Turn off heat and pour batter into hot skillet. Put cornbread in oven. Check after half an hour, although it may need to bake for another 10 to 20 minutes. Cornbread is done when it is lightly browned, risen and slightly split open on top. It will also thump like a ripe melon. Remove from oven and divide into sections of desired size. Butter immediately.

Cornbread Muffins

1 cup cornmeal mix
1 cup self-rising soft-wheat flour
2 eggs
1/4 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups milk

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together and spoon into greased muffin pans, filling each cup about 2/3 full. Bake 15 minutes.

Fried Corn

10 ears corn on the cob
1 ounce fatback (salt pork), cut into thin slices
1 cup water
8 tablespoons butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Place an ear of corn on its end in a shallow bowl or pan. Slice the tips of the corn kernels from the cob with a sharp knife. Then scrape the kernels to remove the remaining corn and “milk” left next to the cob. Repeat with each ear of corn. Place the fatback in a 10-inch iron skillet or heavy frying pan. Cook until crisp and remove, leaving the drippings in the pan. Add the corn with its milk to the pan of fatback drippings along with the cup of water. Bring to a boil, stirring. Add the butter and salt and turn down to low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, about 30 minutes. Add more water if necessary. Perfect fried corn should be thick and sticky. Taste and season.

Spoon Bread

3/4 cup white self-rising cornmeal mix
1 cup milk
1 (8 3/4-ounce) can whole kernel corn,
   drained and slightly mashed
1 (8-ounce) can tomatoes, cut up
1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 teaspoons granulated sugar
4 egg yolks
4 stiff-beaten egg whites
2 tablespoons grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a 6-cup soufflé dish; set aside. In a saucepan, combine cornmeal mix and milk. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is mush. Remove; stir in corn, undrained tomatoes, butter and sugar. Stir in egg yolks. Fold in egg whites; pour into dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 375 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until center is set. Serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

Don Bingham
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