Super-sweet summer corn is one of our favorite things, and this time of year, there's almost more than we know what to do with. But there's a lot more to do with corn than boiling or grilling it straight. So we asked a panel of experts on their favorite ways to get the most out of this summer treat—kernels, cobs, husks, and all.
Fitz Tallon is the executive chef of Eataly New York, overseeing all seven restaurants in the market. His passion for food was first sparked when he worked on Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown, MA, and he went on to hone his craft at the French Culinary Institute in New York before externing at Blue Hill restaurant. He launched his career at the acclaimed Babbo Ristorante, and moved to Eataly New York at its inception as a sous chef and then executive chef of Eataly's fine-dining restaurant, Manzo.
One of my favorite things is making a stock from the corn cob after the kernels have been removed. The amount of sugar that's in corn gives it a really strong, beautiful flavor, and it's the easiest stock you could possibly make. I take equal parts water and corncobs and simmer them for about an hour or so. All of the flavors and sugars leach out into the water, so if you reduce that liquid slowly you end up with a flavor that tastes exactly like sweeter, almost honey-toasted roasted corn. Just be careful not to reduce it too much, or the sugars will taste too caramelized.
The stock is a great base for a number of different things we use, especially summer sauces. If you reduce it far enough, you can use it for crudo dishes in the summer, since a drop goes a long way. The flavor lends itself well to smoked salt, or in a vinaigrette with some olive oil on summer greens, tomatoes, scallops, or shrimp. It's a great way to use the entire corn cob and not waste a thing.
Proud Clevelander Jonathon Sawyer has improved the city's dining culture with restaurants like Trentina, The Greenhouse Tavern, and Noodlecat and stadium restaurants Sawyer's Street Frites, Sausage & Peppers, and SeeSaw Pretzel Shoppe. A Food & Wine "Best New Chef" recipient and 2015 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef of the Great Lakes, Sawyer has appeared on Bizarre Foods America with Andrew Zimmern, Iron Chef America, Dinner Impossible, Unique Eats, The Best Thing I Ever Ate, and most recently The Chew.
I roast pork or beef in corn silk and husks, which is a great technique to do at home. It's almost like braising without adding liquid. You strip the corn and keep it in the fridge, and either use the husks immediately or soak them in water to add moisture, and then wrap them around pork shoulder or beef brisket—something that's going to cook for a long time, like an overnight roast or slow-cooked pulled pork situation. Then cook the corn kernels down in whey, butter, sugar, and salt, so that you get and tangy sweet-and-sour poached corn flavor for a side dish.
Chef Anthony Russo is the founder of Russo's Coal-Fired Italian Kitchen and Russo's New York Pizzeria in Houston. His Italian-inspired menus in each of his restaurants reflect his heritage.
Grill the corn, take it off the cob, and toss it with some balsamic vinegar, and serve it with grilled meats, like steak, grilled or chicken. It gets a sweetness from the balsamic, and a smoky flavor from the grill.
Rich Summer Pudding
Formerly of Momofuku Noodle Bar and French Louie, Ian Alvarez recently opened Bara in New York City's East Village, where he blends the culinary and atmospheric influences of a French wine bar with a Japanese izakaya.
Take the kernels and—with nothing else—put them into a blender and blend them until they're pulverized to liquid, then strain the liquid out. You get this thick corn juice with a ton of sugar and fiber in it. To reduce it down into a pudding, you literally take the strained corn juice, throw it into a pan, reduce it, and at the end throw in some kernels. The result is a corn pudding that tastes like nothing else but corn. It thickens into this amazing creamy texture thanks to the sugar and fiber already in it.
North Carolina native chef Joe Kindred combines Southern traditions with global influences at Kindred, where a rotating menu always keeps things interesting. He's worked at noteworthy restaurant across the country, from the original Nobles (Charlotte, NC), Tru and The Pump Room (Chicago), and Delfina (San Francisco).
There's a black fungus that infects corn called huitlacoche (also called corn smut), that we purée with crème fraîche to use as a garnish. We do a succotash with corn and shelling beans, then finish it with the huitlacoche crema, which gives it a cool, fermented flavor. It's a way to incorporate something that's considered a negative thing—a fungus—and turn it into something positive.
Since first learning to cook at his father's restaurant at age 11, chef Michele Brogioni developed a passion for food from his native Italy that would lead him to 20 years of culinary experience and a Michelin star as head chef of Relais & Chateaux "Il Falconiere" in Cortona, Italy. As head chef of Maison Dellos Catering, he cooked for U.S. Presidents and other heads of state. He's currently the executive chef at the Italian Leopard at des Artistes in New York City.
I like to use corn juice instead of butter in risotto. I juice fresh corn, put it in a pot, reduce it down, and then add it to risotto with a little bit of olive oil. You get a really nice, creamy risotto that's dairy-free and lower in fat. Then you can add some crab on top, or some diced tomatoes and a little bit of lime juice.
As the maestra de cocina and co-owner of Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito, chef Joanne Weir focuses on using seasonal, local ingredients in the restaurant's modern Mexican-inspired and 100% gluten-free menus. Weir is also a James Beard Award-winning cookbook author and judge and an international cooking teacher. Her latest book, Kitchen Gypsy, will be published in September 2015.
I think corn for dessert is great, and a corn custard or flan is particularly delicious. It's kind of basic, so you can make it sweet or savory. I cook about two and a half cups of kernels in about two tablespoons of butter, and then I add three eggs, one egg yolk, a cup of sugar (the corn is sweet that you don't need a lot), and one and a half cups of half-and-half. You could even purée half of the batch so that you get some chunky and some smooth.
Then I bake the custard in individual ramekins submerged in a water bath. They bake really quickly, and they're delicious. Serve them with some whipped cream on top, or dust the ramekins before baking with sugar so that they slide out like corn crème caramels!
Corn Ice Cream + Corn Caramel
Thiago Silva is the pastry chef at EMM Group's Catch in New York's Meatpacking district. He is a 2015 Dessert Professional Top 10 Pastry Chef, and recently won the Food Network's Chopped, donating his winnings to C-Cap (Careers for Culinary Arts Program).
I make sweet corn ice cream every summer. It's my favorite ice cream.
I use all of the corn, not just the kernels. I take my base of cream, milk, and sugar, and add the shucked corn kernels, cobs, and husks, and then let it steep overnight. The next day, I strain the mixture and continue with a traditional ice cream base.
Sometimes I also juice the kernels to make a corn caramel to go with it. I bring some sugar to a dry caramel state, add the corn juice to stop the cooking of the sugar, and then bring it up to a caramel temperature. Then I pour that over the corn ice cream.
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