Saturday, September 03, 2005

Campfire Corn-on-the-Cob, Part 2

Two of my favorite summer foods are tri-tip roast and grilled corn-on-the-cob. Fresh corn can still be purchased at a quarter apiece, up recently from five to the dollar. It's sweet and plentiful. It looks like we'll be munching on the ears for several more weeks.

For variety, I cook corn three different ways. My cobs rarely see the inside of a stockpot. It takes too much effort to fill the pot and heat the water to a boil. Don't get me wrong -- simmered corn is good. I just rarely cook it this way.

I grilled most of my corn, shucked or unshucked. The intense heat of the grill concentrates the sugars and adds a robust flavor. Coarse salt and melting butter are the only adornments for grilled corn. A few pepper grinds and that's it.

The only question left is to pull the husks off or leave them on. To me, the answer is, "It just depends."

The simplest method is to lay the corn--husk and silk included--over a very hot fire and roast until the husk has dried out and is charred. That's it. All you have to do is peel the husk back and butter and season.

Don't worry about the silk. It comes right off when you peel the husk back. Just pull it off the ear and throw it into the fire.

Last night, I was prompted by a Wednesday food section article to clean the hush and silk from each ear before grilling.

Associated Press Writer J.M. Hirsch said, "The grilling itself is a careful process. Corn singes easily, and corn singe doesn't taste good. As I said, a painfully elaborate process for wonderfully simple food" (Sacramento Bee, Taste, August 31, 2005).

Hirsch hearkened back to childhood when his father's corn cooking days of yesteryear., After a prophetic pronouncement of the "best corn ever," his father cooked his corn "simple."

The senior Hirsch husked the ears and then filled a large stockpot with an inch of water. The corn was steamed until tender. Nothing but butter and salt adorned the kernels.

Now in the corn cookin' prime of his life, Hirsch's own experiences with corn grilling led him back to his father's method, with a few refinments. Flavored butters and coarse salt are all that adorn his corn these days.

My experience with grilled corn is mixed. Unlike Hirsch, I don't have a corn singeing problem. The ears had a slight smokiness after being grilled over mesquite coals. But, leave them on the grill a minute or two too long and you too much moisture evaporates. The kernels were flat, but still good with butter and kosher salt.

I guess I'll have to try Hirsch's method next time!

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