Amazingly, not everyone always wants to eat fresh corn on the cob, gnawing along the rows, getting it stuck in their teeth, risking buttery cheeks. Nor do they always want to eat corn off the cob from an opened can or frozen package.
Personally, I love the all-too-short seasonal treat of fresh corn picked from my garden moments before it’s steamed or simmered, buttered, salted and bitten off row by row. I grow enough to make sure we eat it on the cob until we are tired of it. Then I freeze some and make corn relish, and cook it several different ways off the cob.
Corn in brown butter
Our friend Cris said, “Cook some in brown butter.” I’ve shied away from brown butter because too often it becomes black butter before I know it. (Apparently adding a little olive oil can keep it on the brown side.) As a cooking technique, browning butter is a handy one to have because you can improve all kinds of dishes with it. My problem with browning butter was that I tend to pay insufficient attention because I try to do other stuff at the same time. I watched the other evening as he browned up a half a stick over a moderate flame. It foamed up, sizzled out the moisture, gradually turned golden, then brown. It actually took very little time.
At that point we dumped in the corn cut from four cobs. Lightly salted, the corn cooked quickly, in moments really, and tasted so very good. The leftover corn — not much — went into pancakes the next morning.
We observed a proportion of one tablespoon of butter per cob of corn, perfectly sufficient. You could use more, if you want, but don’t even think of trying this with margarine. This doesn’t work very well with non-stick pans. If you have cast iron, use that. Make sure the pan is small enough to let the butter pool up; it will scorch if it is spread thin.
Another corn off the cob dish is creamed corn. Homemade creamed corn is a very different treat from the gluey stuff you get out of a can. There is more pure corn flavor, with richness of cream. Cut it off the cob, melt some butter in a heavy saute pan, cook the corn in the butter until it turns bright yellow, then dribble in some all-purpose cream. You don’t have to cover the kernels with the cream, but you do need enough to simmer the corn in it. Keep the heat low and let the corn simmer for at least five minutes before serving it. Salt and pepper to taste.
Like brown butter corn, this is a fine way to come up with one or two servings or a dozen. One cob per person.
Another of our favorite corn off the cob preparations is the old fashioned corn oysters, so named, I suspect, because little patties of corn look like fried oysters. Old cookbooks often mention them — merely corn cut off the cob with egg and flour beaten in, then fried in toothsome blobs until golden.
Lots of the old recipes called for grating the corn, but I hate doing that because it splatters all over and my glasses get spotted up with corn milk. I just cut it off in two swipes down the cob, one half way thru the kernels then another pass to get the rest. Old recipes called for cream with the egg and flour, but I leave it out and use closer to a third of a cup of flour. At the table, members of my household add condiments to taste: one needs ketchup, another likes buffalo sauce, and I like cocktail sauce.
Since I freeze corn both cooked and raw, I can easily turn my stored corn into a lovely dish even in January. It won’t be as transcendent as in September, but I’ll taste hints of our summer now fading away.
2 cups kernels cut from the cob
1 egg beaten
¼ cup cream or milk (optional)
½ cup flour
Salt and pepper
Mix together the corn, egg and milk until well blended.
Shake in the flour gradually and stir.
Oil a griddle generously, and drop spoonfuls of corn batter on it.
Cook until golden on one side, then flip and repeat.
Place cooked corn oysters on paper towels to drain. Keep warm until serving.