If you’ve read my last two columns, you may have figured out that tomatoes and field peas are my special summer treats. But there’s one other food I can’t get enough of during the summer, and that’s corn, especially on the cob.
Now I may make a few of you mad, but I’m not a big fan of white corn. The original Silver Queen was pretty good, but white corn has been played with so much that, to me, it has lost that true corn flavor for sweetness.
Bi-color corn, whether you call it Peaches and Cream or Salt and Pepper, is the corn I long for every summer. It’s sweet, but still has a very pronounced flavor of corn – bright and bold, like summer itself.
For several years, the search for bi-color corn has led me to travel to find it, which hasn’t been a bad thing. Last year I traveled to Pamlico Beach for a cooler full of corn. Not only did I get great corn, but I found a part of North Carolina that I fell in love with.
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This year I was privileged to get corn from a serious gardener in Beaufort County who plants two rows of corn just to save the seeds, a tradition that goes back at least to his great grandfather. You won’t have to go that far, thankfully, because a good number of farmers are now bringing bi-color to farmers’ markets. Seek it out. Bi-color corn will change your mind about great corn.
After I’ve gotten my fill of fresh corn, when the season begins around the Fourth of July, I start playing with corn on the cob. I enjoy seeing what flavors give an added boost to freshly picked corn.
One of my favorite twists is brushing hot corn with mayonnaise and sprinkling Parmesan cheese over it. Mayonnaise is a Mexican trick, and you could amp the Hispanic twist by using Cotija cheese and mixing the mayonnaise with a little crème fresh. Thanks to Latin food writer Sandra Gutierrez of Cary for that tip.
This avocado butter was a surprising experiment, and I tend to make this often. It is smooth and creamy with lots of flavor that adds to the corn without covering its glorious flavor. Any leftover butter can be used over grilled fish or shrimp.
And just for your amusement from “Good Form: Dinners Ceremonious and Unceremonious” (1890):
“Corn may be eaten from the cob. Etiquette permits this method, but does not allow one to butter the entire length of an ear of corn and then gnaw it from end to end. To hold an ear of corn if it may be a short one, by the end, with the right hand and bite from the ear is good form. A little doily, or very small napkin, is sometimes served with corn to fold about the end of a cob that is to be grasped by the hand, but this arrangement is as inconvenient as it is unnecessary.”
Give me a break. I’ll eat corn on the cob any way I please.
Serve with: Anything that comes off your grill this summer.
To Drink: ice cold pale ale.
Grilled Corn on the Cob with Avocado Butter
1 small ripe avocado, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
8 fresh ears of corn
2 tablespoons olive oil, or homemade vinaigrette
Additional kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Take a fork and mash the avocado. Stir in the butter, lime juice, chili powder and a generous pinch of salt. Cover and chill this mixture for at least 1 hour.
Peel back the cornhusks, but do not completely remove. Remove the silks and place the corn and husks in cold water for 30 minutes. Drain and then pat dry.
Brush the corn with the oil or vinaigrette. Sprinkle lightly with additional salt and a grinding or two of pepper on each cob. Fold the husks back around the corn and tie once with butcher’s twine.
Preheat your grill to medium.
Place the corn on the grill and cover. Grill for about 20 to 25 minutes, turning the ears every 5 minutes. Pull the corn off the grill and cut the twine. Place on a serving platter and bring the butter mixture from the refrigerator. You might want to put it in a nice bowl if you didn’t start that way. Serve immediately so the corn can be slathered with the butter mixture.