For all the malign commercial corn receives from the sustainable agricultural community, sweet summer corn is literally a whole different beast… and savored for its sweet, crunchy flavor. Sweet corn growers limit their production to varieties meant for eating “unprocessed” – fresh off the cob or frozen. The corn of “Food, Inc infamy”, dent corn, deserves all the flack. The more starchy varieties get processed for corn starch, corn syrup, and animal feed. Dent corn, treated with lye, is used to make masa harina and tortillas.
You can still be a self-respecting sustainable agriculture advocate and enjoy sweet summer corn. I do!
Fresh picked corn needs little adornment, just barely a hint of salt or butter. Its peak flavor is best appreciated with 48 hours of harvesting. After that, the sugars begin converting to starch – even the texture deteriorates.
Recipes abound for corn chowder with all sorts of seasonings and flavors. But when corn is super fresh, I like mine very simple.
6 ears corn
2 tbs. butter
1 tbs. chopped garlic
1 small onion, peeled and chopped
¼ cup white wine
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup cream
Salt and pepper to taste
3 small Yukon gold potatoes
2 scallions or one cubanelle pepper, diced
1. Shuck the corn. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Save the corn cobs.
2. In a large pot, over medium heat, melt 1 tbs. butter. Add ½ the corn, ½ the garlic, and the onion. Let cook for about 3 minutes before stirring. Add the wine, corn cobs and chicken broth. Let simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Meanwhile… cut the potatoes into a medium dice. Toss them with salt and let sit for 5 minutes. Rinse off excess salt.
4. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat. Add remaining butter and potatoes. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When potatoes are al dente (timing will depend on how small you cut the potatoes) add the remaining garlic and corn. Season with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and stir in cubanelle peppers and/or scallion.
5. Finish making the corn chowder… fish the cobs out of the broth and scrape all the juice out and back into the pot. Puree the broth in a blender – be careful with the hot liquid – and be sure to take the center plug out of the center of the blender top to let the steam escape. 6. Return the corn stock to the pot and stir in the cream. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 7. Serve the soup with the corn and potato garnish. Top with a dollop of romesco sauce or sun-dried tomato pesto if desired.