SUNDAY DINNER

Summer fling haunts her

January 2, 2011 

It seemed like innocent fun at the time, giddy as I was with the rush of summer - the tomatoes, the blueberries, the corn.

Oh, yes, the corn. It was my downfall.

Here in January, the passion of June seems foolish. I was reminded of my folly when I opened the freezer recently to store vegetable soup. Bags and bags of corn filled an entire shelf.

Good grief, what had I been thinking?

I hadn't been thinking is the answer.

It was a gorgeous early summer day, just warm enough to make me happy without drenching me in sticky sweat. My neighbor, Tom, had been freezing corn and offered to come over for a corn-freezing party at my kitchen. He believes it's perfect to freeze corn early in the season, before the worms leave unattractive, brown, munched spots on it.

Get a whole sack, he advised. I'd get a better price.

Enticed into excess

At the farmer's market, a sack contained 60 ears. A little squeak in the back of my mind asked what I would do with that much corn, but it was drowned out by the perfume of the silks, the moist feel of the dew-covered husks, the long-delayed joy of fresh summer sweet corn.

A nice young man put the sack into the trunk for me. (Note: I am not above using my post-50 status to get people to do things for me.)

We had a kitchen-spraying good time that day. When removing corn from the cob, you have to accept that you'll find bits of juicy kernels on the light fixtures, refrigerator door, coffee maker and anything else within a 5-foot radius for days afterward.

Tom carried the husks home for his compost heap. I piled bags of corn into the freezer. I was proud of myself: I actually labeled the bags. That would enable me to avoid the CSI-like interrogation I usually have to give to frozen items. ("Beans? Spaghetti sauce? Tell me now!")

There's no question what's in all these bags. It was time to do something.

What to make

I thawed some out, with no plan. Corn pudding is an old Southern tradition. Most recipes are full of cheese and milk or cream, which makes them out for the dairy-allergic Hub. Almond milk? Hmm ... I didn't want corn-flavored Almond Joy.

There's maque chou, a Louisiana side dish, but I didn't have any bell peppers.

The thawed corn contained a lot of water, so I didn't think it would work for one of my summer favorites, fried corn fritters. The moisture would make the fritters pop oil like fireworks at the fair.

I started pulling things out of drawers and ended up with onions, garlic, margarine, marjoram and powdered Chimayo chile from a trip to Santa Fe. I simmered it all together and had reddish corn that tasted very sweet, despite the chile.

I had to keep looking for ways to embrace the results of my summer romance. I found a recipe for crawfish and corn chowder - I'm in a Louisiana frame of mind, I suppose. Corn, yes; crawfish, no. So, I did what anyone would do: Substituted chicken-apple sausage, also found lurking in the freezer.

The test

I simmered potatoes, canned tomatoes, onion, celery (no bell pepper, again), thyme, bay leaf and chicken broth with the corn and sausage, and it all smelled great. I called Hub at work:

"Want to eat an experiment for lunch? It's corn and crawfish chowder with sausage instead of crawfish."

"That's a bit of a switch, sausage for crawfish," he said suspiciously.

He liked it. It was hearty but mild in flavor. Maybe I'll try andouille instead of the chicken sausage next time. The spiciness should contrast well with the sweet, sweet corn.

But most important: It was another bag down, dozens more to go. My summer love goes on.

Reach Debbie Moose at www.debbiemoose.com.

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