Jane asked Lauren:
My family loves fresh corn and I make it often. Lately, though, I’ve noticed that instead of eating the cooked corn directly off the cobs, every person in my family has been choosing to cut the kernels off the cobs at the table. Although, I love to eat summer-fresh corn the “old-fashioned” way, I will admit that I also find it’s easier on my teeth to eat corn when off the cob. Anyway, the point of this letter is to ask if you have a recipe that uses fresh corn that’s cut off their cobs before cooking. Not just for the sake of my family’s teeth, but also because my table is an absolute mess after dinner, covered with stray pieces of corn. Also, is there a “right way” to remove corn from their cobs, as I tried to do this twice and both times I had lots of hard crunchy pieces of the cob intermingled with my bowl of corn?
Jane, that’s exactly what happened in my family! When asked, my husband and kids said they were simply tired of getting corn stuck in between their teeth at the table. So, after those little yellow nuggets finished shooting all over the place, my table (and floor) ended up as messy as (I’m sure) yours gets! So now, I usually always cut the corn off the cobs before cooking. Actually, doing this allows for a lot more choices “recipe-wise.” You can either sauté the corn alone in butter or a cold-pressed oil (or a combination), either with an assortment of aromatics (onions, sweet and/or hot peppers, garlic), and/or spices and herbs (curry, cumin, oregano, chives, cilantro, flat-leaf Italian parsley), or simmer the corn with some crushed tomatoes and/or sautéed mushrooms.
Yes, there’s a right way and a wrong way to cut corn off the cobs:
Cutting too close to the cob leaves you more likely to end up with pieces of the hard, tasteless cob in the bowl. You also miss out on the real “prize” when eating corn this way, which is to enjoy the natural “creamy” substance that sits just beneath each kernel of corn, in between itself and the cob.
The best way to get less cob and more corn in the bowl, is to first place a bowl (preferably wide and somewhat low) on your work surface. Next, stand the cleaned ear of corn (free of all outer husk and inner silk) in the center of the bowl, widest part down (holding the ear in place with your nonworking hand). Position the straight (not serrated) blade of your (8-inch) chef’s knife in a spot that will enable you to cut the corn off, leaving a little bit of the kernel still attached to the cob. Now, using your working hand, starting at the top of the cob, use a sawing motion, move the blade down the cob, releasing the kernels into the bowl. Continue, until all the kernels from all the cobs are in the bowl.
Wait–Don’t throw away those “seemingly” empty corn cobs!
Remember when I instructed you to leave a little bit of the bottom of the corn kernels still attached to the cob? Well, that spot houses an incredibly yummy substance that I call “natural corn cream” and it’s a great way to add a really soothing quality to sautéed fresh corn. (It’s a healthier way to make “creamed corn,” without needing to add cream.)
To get the corn cream out of the cobs, after you’ve released the kernels, place each cob over the bowl with one end pointed away from you. Place the blade of your chef’s knife at the part of the cob closest to you, with the dull side angled away from you. Choke up on the handle and scrape down over the cob, dragging the blade down from one end of the cob to the other. Repeat this, while rotating the cob, always dragging the blade in that same direction. You’ll see, with each motion, the thick white corn cream will ooze out of the cob and fall into the bowl of kernels.
Believe it or not, those cobs are STILL good for something!
Instead of throwing the cobs away (yet), you can simmer them in some defatted Chicken Stock or in water, embellished with some cut up aromatics (onions, carrots, celery, leeks, and parsley). Then, after simmering for about an hour, strain out the solids and you’ve got yourself an outrageously delicious corn stock to use in soup, to simmer rice, or drink it straight, piping hot, as a healing brew.
So, although I can’t promise that you won’t still need to use dental floss after eating corn, I can promise that you’ll all absolutely love this recipe for Fresh Corn, Sautéed with Peppers, Onions and “Natural Corn Cream“.