Sweet Corn

One of the best benefits of being back up North is the ability to get good, fresh sweet corn. Now, I need to say here that corn sold in a supermarket is almost certainly not fresh. Corn that wasn’t picked the same day you eat it is not fresh. If you have ever ordered an item that comes with “corn on the cob” in a restaurant in January, that’s a good sign that you have no idea what real corn tastes like. With that definition out of the way, I never was able to find a single decent ear of corn in the 6 years I lived in North Carolina. The few times I actually found local corn at a farmer’s market or farm stand it was a poor, undergrown, worm-eaten approximation of the real thing. I don’t know if the problem down there was climate, soil, or culture. But no problem here in Massachusetts so far.

So, how do you cook and eat corn? You husk it, drop it in boiling water for as short as time as possible (5-6 minutes is about right), butter it, salt it, and as soon as you can pick up the ear without burning yourself, dive in. I take no position on eating pattern; linear, spiral, and random access all work.

Corn goes well with other summer flavors. Tomatoes, fresh basil, grilled meats, and so forth. In fact, fresh corn and fresh tomatoes, with nothing but butter and salt for the corn and salt for the tomatoes is a meal fit for a king. I haven’t seen good tomatoes yet this year, but I’ve had good luck the last few weeks with other accompaniments. Last Saturday, in celebration of the beginning of corn season, I had broiled lamb chops with a peach-habeñero salsa. (slightly green peach, onion, finely chopped habeñero, red wine vinegar). This week, I made a Thai-inspired sautée of scallops with basil, garlic, fish sauce, and strips of chili. Both were easy to make, really tasty. Both went well with the corn. In the end analysis I probably preferred the scallops because they distracted less from the corn. Which, after all, was the real point of the meal. Most things you can cook 52 weeks a year these days. Corn season is 6 weeks a year, if you are lucky. Or 6 weeks after 6 years if you’ve been living down south.

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