It’s early October. Very early. October 1. In the supermarkets and at farm stands and farmers markets, there is corn aplenty. Oh, the government is shut down today, but eating goes on.
Corn is a basic food that can be employed in a myriad of ways. Sometimes, simple is the best.
With ears fresh from the farmers market, Suzen gave me the standard order: “Husk.”
“Why don’t you ever do this?” I asked.
“It’s a guy thing. You know that,” came the response.
It’s not a guy thing. It’s a messy thing. So, I did it. Of course, I cheated. I’ve written here about how to easily cook corn in the husk and then get the corn out: 2 ears for 4 minutes in the microwave with the husk on, take them out, cut off the stock end, hold them upright by the tassel, and shake until the corn slides out. You are left holding the intact husk with no mess.
I did not microwave for 4 minutes here, because the corn was headed for a skillet. But I did do the ears, 2 at a time, in the microwave for 2 minutes and then easily removed the husk. All intact. No corn silk floating in the air and landing all over the kitchen. Suzen was happy. The cats, however, were disappointed.
This is one of those “you can do it your way” recipes. It calls for shallots and you can add more or less. Or use onions. Add some garlic. Use the thyme or not. Add another herb. A pinch of sugar? I’m sure that’s a typo. A few tablespoons of brown sugar would not hurt at all.
The husk may be long gone, but I would say the flavor here is “husky.” Suzen ignored my pleas for more sugar, so this dish is not unduly sweet. Yes, the corn is “caramelized” but those natural sugars have a distinctive almost earthy flavor. “White” is not how I would describe this dish. “Delicious” is.
You can buy a lot corn, scale this recipe up, and then have the corn for leftovers for a few days. Warmed corn, again in the microwave, and a burger is a pretty good meal. French fries? No, try caramelized corn.
This recipe is from a great cookbook, I Love Corn, by Lisa Skye. I happen to love single theme cookbooks. If I have corn, how can I use it? I don’t want just the 10+ ideas or so in a standard cookbook, I want a lot of ideas with imaginative variation from appetizers to dessert. You can find I Love Corn on Amazon for the bargain price of $8. That’s a steal.
Yes. Dessert. Corn ice cream.
Caramelized Corn with Shallots
Yield: serves 4
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed [about 3 cups]
- 4 large shallots, cut into ¼ inch pieces
- Pinch of granulated sugar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves, plus 1 large sprig from garnishing if you wish
In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the corn, shallots, sugar and salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally to prevent burning, until the corn is caramelized, about 5 minutes
Stir in the thyme and cook for 5 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To serve, Garnish with the sprig of thyme if you desire.
Source: I Love Corn
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Macro lens, F/2.8 for 1/100 sec at ISO 1000
There are things I just always confuse: baking powder versus baking soda. Gee, I wonder why those buttermilk biscuits failed?
I’m always confused about concrete versus cement. One contains the other, but which is which? Right now there is a rumbling noise outside my window as a cement mixer is spinning so that the sidewalk can be repaired. No, actually, it is a concrete mixture. Concrete is made with cement. The cement is effectively the “paste” that holds aggregates of different kinds together. The Romans were the first masters of using concrete, not cement, creating structures that still stand.
Which leads me to my real topic: cornbread muffins. Especially the oversize ones you can encounter from those street carts selling bitter coffee, stale doughnuts, and gazunta cornbread muffins. Those street muffins have the structure of, well, concrete. Or maybe cement. They are not impossible to bite through so concrete may be too strong a term. But the muffins are inevitably dry and pasty, so I think comparing them to cement is perfectly legit.
Cement is good for us and our sidewalks. “Cementy” cornbread muffins are bad. Disgustingly bad.
When it comes to muffins, I am now trained to think of “big” as automatically “bad.” It’s not possible to make a muffin that is huge, tender, and tasty. Impossible.
And then there came along the book Piece of Cake: Home Baking Made Simple by David Muniz. Right there is a recipe for Texas Corn Cream Muffins. It’s suggested that although this recipe is for 12, you can bake it oversized in a pan that holds only 6. I suppose that is where the “Texas” label comes from.
But this recipe is intrinsically different, not just in name but in composition. First, you add a cup of corn [or creamed corn!]. It has double the liquid of a typical recipe and that liquid is heavy cream not buttermilk. And over twice the flour, 2 ⅓ cups, instead of just 1. For me, the “typical” and very good cornbread muffin recipe is found in The Cornbread Gospels by Crescent Dragonwagon.
How can you have 3 cups of more stuff — corn, flour, and cream — and still get only 12 or 6 muffins? Won’t they all be gigantic? Isn’t this the pathway to denseness and that very pasty feel I hate?
No. These muffins are a miracle. Soft, tender, lazily falling apart as you apply butter and jam. The perfect consistency in your mouth, offering that warm cornbread flavor that seems endlessly homey. My perfect breakfast is one of these muffins, of either size, and hot chocolate. There’s enough sugar and caffeine there to get me to at least 10:30.
When we make these again, we are going to use the batter for 12, not 6. That picture above shows a 6-sizer and it is as big as one of those streetcar muffins. But a thousand times better.
If the Romans had had this recipe, the Empire surely would not have fallen. We would all still be speaking Latin. No NFL on Sundays, but we’d all buy muffins from stands outside the local coliseum as we await the arrival of the gladiators.
I love these muffins. So will you.
Texas Corn Cream Muffins
Yield: either 12 or 6
- 2 ⅓ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup cornmeal
- ⅔ cup sugar
- 4 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 2 large eggs
- 1 cup fresh or canned corn [or creamed corn]
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 6 jumbo or 12 standard muffin cups with melted butter or pan spray.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the melted butter, cream, and eggs. On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture and mix just until the ingredients are combined and not lumpy. Add the corn or creamed corn [you can used dried fruit here, too].
This batter is quite thick, so don’t be alarmed. Use a large ice cream scoop or spoon, divide it evenly among the prepared cups.
Alternatively the batter can be made ahead and refrigerated in a covered container for up to 3 days. Just remember to add 3 to 5 minutes to the baking time to compensate for the chilled batter.
Bake larger muffins for 30 to 35 minutes and smaller muffins for 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Don’t panic if the edges are darker than the middle. That’s the way a cornbread muffin should look.
Let the muffins cool in the pan for 5 minutes before turning them out to cool on wire racks.
Source: Piece of Cake by David Muniz
Photo Information: Canon T2i, EFS 18-55MM Macro lens, F/2.8 o 1/100 sec at ISO 1600