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Fresh, sweet corn is so delicious and versatile in cooking — soups, salads, sauces, side dishes, even desserts are irresistable when made with corn. But good corn can be difficult to find. Corn is usually sold naked in supermarkets. Ears of corn need their protective husks; removing the husk shortens the lifespan of the sugars in the corn. The produce manager at my local market has told me that I am his only customer who wants to buy corn in the husk. Too bad, because the corn tastes better if it is left in the husks until cooking.

I have bought good corn and not-so-good corn from farmers’ markets. Corn tastes best when it is sweet, not starchy. To test corn, I take a raw bite — which determines whether I will buy one ear or a dozen ears. A good ear of corn has super sweet raw kernals. If I like the first ear, I never mangle and open up all the rest of the corn; I simply pick out the unmolested ears. It’s obnoxious to the next customer to leave partially shucked ears of corn on the display.

Another reason to buy corn in the husk is for grilling. It is so simple and so delicious to soak corn in the husks for 30 minutes, then grill for 20 minutes (turning once) until the husks are charred. When the diner shucks the corn, the silk has magically disappeared and the corn has a nicely charred taste.

For most recipes, I remove the corn from the cob, usually using the Lee’s corn creamer, which leaves the hulls on the cob and produces the best part of the corn, the creamy juice. This corn “milk” is the secret to some of my favorite recipes: corn chowder, corn pudding, and creamed corn.

Of course the crunchy taste of whole kernals of fresh corn is also wonderful in recipes. Here is a corn salsa that is a perfect condiment for fish or as a snack with chips.

Toasted Corn-Poblano Salsa

  • 4 ears of corn
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • 1 cup chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herb: cilantro or basil
  • salt and pepper

Stand the ear of corn on a sheet pan with sides, which will catch any flying corn kernals. Use a boning knife to cut the kernals off of the ears. Spread the corn out on the sheet pan and place under the broiler. Cook until light brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and let cool.

To roast the poblano pepper, place on a gas burner and cook until the skin is completely blackened. Wrap in plastic and let cool. Peel and discard the burnt skin. Remove the seeds and stem. Chop the pepper in a fine dice.

In a bowl, combine the corn, poblano, tomatoes, and green onions. Whisk together the lime and oil and pour over the salsa. Season with herb, salt, and pepper.

Etiquette question: do you butter your ear of corn with a knife or do you run the hot corn on top of the stick of butter? I love to indulge in stick buttering when I’m dining alone!


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