Kernels of knowledge

Smoking cobs and nine more ways to look at an ear of fresh sweet corn

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Elote — Mexican grilled corn — from the cookbook 'Kitchen Gypsy' (Oxmoor House) by Joanne Weir.
Angela K. Evans | Boulder Weekly

As the first fresh Boulder County-grown corn comes to markets, stands and stores, the cooking advice is pretty simple: Don’t mess with what selective breeding has delivered: giant cobs lined with sugary kernels.

Back in the day we would pick up a few dozen ears on the way home from the pond, but they were much smaller and less sweet. The cobs got boiled unmercifully in salted water under the impression that it would make them sweeter. It did not.

Some would say fresh corn needs nothing, and gnaw on the naked kernels. Unless I’m doing a county fair judging, that’s not for me. I like salt flakes, fresh ground black pepper and a glistening of good butter.

Even better is smoked butter. Put butter in a heatproof dish inside a cold or warm smoker. You can smoke butter or corn in a grill by using a foil dish with chunks of smoldering damp mesquite or hickory chips.

Slice the kernels off the cob and add to pancakes and salads or sauté in bacon fat or sesame oil as a side dish.

Feeding a crowd at a picnic? Make camp corn by placing shucked corn in a cooler and adding hot water and salt. Just don’t let it sit in there too long.

I’m told the very best way to cook an ear of corn is butter-poaching. I’m told this because it takes a few pounds of hot melted butter to immerse an ear of corn. Maybe I try it at the next summer party…

Some prefer to roast corn over a hotter flame with the husks on.Kim Long
Some prefer to roast corn over a hotter flame with the husks on.

The easiest way is to grill cobs on a charcoal or gas grill for a few minutes to develop some character, otherwise known as caramelization. What you do with it after that is up to you.

I love elote — Mexican roasted corn — which is a wonderful blast of summer flavor. There are dozens of toppings used but here’s one great recipe for elote using roasted (in the husk) corn from Kitchen Gypsy: Recipes and Stories from a Lifelong Romance with Food (Oxmoor House) by chef Joanne Weir.

Elote (Roasted corn with chipotle aioli)

6 ears corn, tops trimmed
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small clove garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon chipotle en adobo
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground chile de arbol
1 teaspoon ground guajillo
2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
3 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons minced red onion
6 large lime wedges

Directions: Preheat an outdoor grill over medium heat. Cut the top ends off the corn. Place on the grill and cook, turning occasionally, 12 to 15 minutes.

In the meantime, in a blender or food processor, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, chipotle and lime juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt until smooth.

In a small bowl, combine the chile de arbol, guajillo and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Set aside.

When the corn is done, peel back the husks and discard the silk. Brush the corn with melted butter. Drizzle the chipotle aioli onto the top in a zigzag pattern. Sprinkle with the Cotija, cilantro and red onion. Sprinkle the spice mixture on top. Serve garnished with a lime wedge. Makes six servings.

Note: Don’t waste the cobs! Instead of tossing the corn cobs after cutting off the kernels, simmer them in water for 30 minutes to get a smooth broth to use in green chile, to make polenta or to poach chicken. Cobs can also be simmered in milk to use in sauces and chowders.

The 25th anniversary Olathe Sweet Corn Festival on Aug. 6 includes a doughnut dash, pancake breakfast, corn eating contest, live music and all-you-can-eat corn. olathesweetcornfest.com.

Local Food News

Stick’s Pale Ale from Niwot’s Bootstrap Brewing won a gold at the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Competition.Courtesy of Bootstrap Brewing
Stick’s Pale Ale from Niwot’s Bootstrap Brewing won a gold at the 2016 U.S. Open Beer Competition.

Sushi Yoshi, the cool Japanese eatery from Superior, has reopened at 917 Front St., Louisville. … The Flagstaff House has once again won the Wine Spectator Grand Award for its service and 15,000-bottle cellar as it has every year since 1983. Flagstaff House is one of only three restaurants in the world to have earned the award for this long. … Two Lafayette breweries took home gold at the recent U.S. Open Beer Championship: Howdy Beer from The Post Brewing Company and Imperial Porter from Liquid Mechanics. Other Colorado winners include All American IPA (City Star), Big Water Nut (Crow Hop Brewing), Bad Motor Finger Coffee Stout (Denver Beer), Old Chub (Oskar Blues), Radio Red Ale (Crow Hop), Stick’s Pale Ale (Bootstrap Brewing) and Colorado Top Rope Lager (The Post).

Culinary Calendar

Food films, interactive live opera, first-class culinary networking and entertaining small plates are on tap at the Flatirons Food Film Festival benefit Aug. 3 at The Dairy Arts Center in Boulder. Stellar chefs on hand dishing their fare are Daniel Asher (River and Woods), Dave Query (Big Red F), Kelly Whitaker (Basta) and Nate Singer (Blackbelly). Other artisan goodies provided by Cured, Il Porcellino, Hen and the Heifer and Lucky’s Bakehouse. flatironsfoodfilmfest.org. … Chefs including Rachel Best (Leaf), Casey Easton (Food Lab), Vanessa House (Shine) and Diane Starnick (Culinary Hearts) will cook with organic produce grown by Boulder teens at the 17th annual benefit for the Cultiva program on Aug. 6 at Growing Gardens, growinggardens.org.

Words to Chew on

Melting into the corn in 2005 at the Field of Dreams, Dyersville, IA.John Lehndorff
Melting into the corn in 2005 at the Field of Dreams, Dyersville, IA.

“My 11-year-old son Hans and I drove about 3,500 miles along the George Brett Super Highway, the Mark McGuire Highway and Pete Rose Way in search of the ultimate ballpark food. … We detoured home to Iowa’s Field of Dreams (where the Kevin Costner movie was filmed). I had a catch with my son, he took batting practice, and art and life melded as we disappeared into the corn in right field. Pulling back one ear’s husk, we nibbled some kernels. They were as sweet and memorable as this heavenly American adventure we’re on.” — Nibbles, Rocky Mountain News, Sept. 9, 2005

John Lehndorff hosts Radio Nibbles at 8:25 a.m. Thursdays on KGNU. Podcasts at: news.kgnu.org/category/features/
radio-nibbles. Send food event info and corn pies to: Nibbles@BoulderWeekly.com