Do the husk-y thing for better ears of corn with just a little butter

August 05, 1992|By Cathy Barber | Cathy Barber,Contributing WriterUniversal Press Syndicate

Have you ever eaten hot corn on the cob straight, with no butter or salt?

You might like it.

"If it's good, fresh corn, it's wonderful," says author Elizabeth Rozin. "You don't need anything on it."

Sweet and simple, corn on the cob epitomizes all that is good about the summer table.

It's cheap and available, and easy to cook. One ear per person makes a fine side dish. Or, a stack can make a meal.

But all too often, corn on the cob gets short shrift. It's cooked too much, then slathered thoughtlessly with butter or margarine, as if this will atone for too many minutes in hot water.

Ms. Rozin's corn formula: Bring the water to a boil, then add the corn and cook for no more than three or four minutes, until it's just heated through. Take it out of the water and serve.

"Then you still get that marvelous crispy texture," she says.

In her book "Blue Corn and Chocolate" (Alfred. A. Knopf, $23), Ms. Rozin writes of how corn is eaten in other countries.

Commonly, it's roasted in the husk, which is seldom an option here, where corn comes three or five to a tray, partially husked.

In Mexico, India and Southeast Asia, Ms. Rozin says, roasted corn on the cob is sprinkled with salt, chili pepper and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

To roast corn. Choose ears with husks intact. Pull the husks back, but leave them attached. Remove the silks. Rub the kernels with a little butter, if desired, then pull husks back up over the ear. Tie the ends of the husks together with cotton string or a strip of husk. Soak in water to cover for 20 minutes, then pat dry with paper towels. Grill over moderate fire (or in a 375-degree oven) for 15 to 20 minutes.

If corn has been partially husked, remove remaining husk and silks. Brush ears with melted butter; grill over moderate fire for 20 minutes or in 350-degree oven for about 15 minutes.

Flavored butters. Soften or melt unsalted butter. Add any of the following to taste: chili powder, minced garlic, minced herbs, Cajun seasoning, or lemon or lime juice.

New Mexican spoon bread 2 cups milk (divided use)

3/4 cup cornmeal

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

4 eggs, lightly beaten

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 cup corn kernels, cut from 2 small ears

1 (4-ounce) can jalapeno peppers, chopped

1/3 cup diced, trimmed red bell peppers

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, loosely packed (5 to 6 ounces)

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. In a small mixing bowl, stir together 1/2 cup of the cold milk with the cornmeal until smooth. Meanwhile, bring remaining 1 1/2 cups milk nearly to boil. Stir the cornmeal mixture into the hot milk until smooth. Bring to boil; boil 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Stir the butter into the hot cornmeal mixture until melted. Add the beaten eggs gradually, stirring. Then stir in the baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, corn kernels and jalapeno and bell peppers.

Place half the batter in a well-buttered 1 1/2 -quart souffle dish or casserole. Top with half the grated cheese. Repeat, adding another layer of batter and topping with remaining cheese. Bake until puffed and golden, 40 to 45 minutes. Serve immediately. Makes 8 servings.

Corn and cherry pepper relish Makes 4 servings.

3 ears cooked corn on the cob or 1 12-ounce can water-packed corn, drained

4 pickled cherry peppers, seeded and diced

2 scallions, chopped

whites of 2 hard-cooked eggs, diced

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Cut corn from cob. Combine corn, peppers, scallions and egg whites in a bowl. Whisk together vinegar and oil and pour over relish. Marinate 1 hour before serving.

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