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Corn, Fresh Off the Cob

August/September 2018 Issue
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Nothing says summer quite like sweet corn. And while we’d never argue with a freshly picked ear of corn hot off the grill, there are plenty of other ways to savor this vegetable’s special sweetness and crunch. As an ingredient, corn is most versatile when you cut the succulent kernels off the cob; their crunchy texture and fresh flavor work beautifully in so many dishes.(And there are many uses for the cobs, too; see below)  These recipes are a starting point, and with the right technique for cutting corn off the cob, getting creative with corn will be a breeze.

 

How to cut corn off the cob

  • Shuck the corn, but leave the stem attached. Pull off the husk and rub off most of the silk by sliding your hand along the ear. Rub the ear briskly with a dry towel, using the stem as a handle to remove any strands of silk that stick.
  • Next, halve the ears. The easiest way to do so is by breaking them. Grasp both ends of a naked ear and—holding it horizontally—quickly and forcefully push your hands away from yourself to snap the cob. We don’t advise cutting the ears in half because they tend to roll on the cutting board—and the core of a cob is very hard.
  • To cut off the kernels, position a half ear on its flat end on a cutting board (a towel under the cob can help to keep the cob from slipping). With a sharp knife, cut from top to bottom. Be careful not to cut too deeply, or you’ll cut into the cob itself and pick up tough, woody bits.

 

Don’t toss the cob: three ways to upcycle

Corn-cob stock

Put the cobs in a large pot, and cover them with water. Add a few big pinches of salt and a bay leaf, and simmer for about an hour. The resulting stock will be sweet and fragrant. Stir into risotto or polenta, swapping it for your usual cooking liquid. Or boil the cobs in a soup as it simmers for extra flavor and body, removing them before serving.

Cob-smoked meat

Give meat a sweet but mellow smoky flavor by replacing some of your wood chips with leftover corn cobs. Place the naked cobs over unlit briquettes. Prepare more briquettes in a large chimney starter. When they’re glowing and covered with ash, use them to cover the cobs and unlit coals. Place additional wood chips on top, and heat until smoking. The lightly sweet flavor of the cobs works best with other light-flavored smoking woods, such as oak and fruit.

Corn milk

Holding the cob vertically in a bowl, scrape it using the back of a knife to remove the sweet liquid known as corn milk. Add the liquid to corn soup or creamed corn to help thicken it and add extra flavor. The milk can even be used in cocktails.

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