This recipe features one of my favorite ways to prepare fresh corn! The corn kernels are sliced off their cobs and the creamy, delicate substance that I call “corn cream” is scraped from each cob into the kernels. Serve this crisp, colorful and soothing side dish with any grilled, broiled or roasted meat, poultry or fish (it’s especially wonderful with lamb or chicken). And even when not serving a crowd, I usually prepare the entire amount and refrigerate the leftovers to throw into salads, to simmer in soup or as a colorful and textural addition to a rice pilaf.
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Stand the cob on its flat end and, beginning at the pointed top, run the blade of a sharp knife down the cob in a sawing motion. This will release the kernels so they fall onto your work surface. Avoid cutting into the cob with the knife. Instead, allow a small portion of the bottom of each kernel to remain attached to the cob. Scoop up the kernels using a pastry scraper and place them into a bowl.
Scrape the milk from each cob by holding the cob so it rests over the edge of the bowl of corn. Position the blade of the knife on the cob so that the top (dull side) is tilted away from you and the sharp edge is toward you. Pull the blade (going away from you) down over the cob in a brisk, firm and repetitive motion. As the corn cream is released from the cob, it will fall into the bowl of corn. Discard empty cobs.
Heat butter in a 12-inch, deep-sided skillet over medium heat and, when bubbling, add the chopped onions. Sauté until softened and very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low, add the garlic and cook until the onions are just starting to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in the chopped red pepper and cook for another 3 minutes. Stir the corn with corn cream (or frozen corn with heavy cream) into the skillet and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally over low heat, until the corn is crisp tender and very hot, about 10 minutes.
Add salt and black pepper, to taste, along with the chopped herbs of your choice. If desired, for extra richness of flavor, stir in another 2 to 3 tablespoons of softened butter. Stir until the butter is just melted and the herbs have heated through. Serve hot.
Although corn should remain in their husks as long as possible, in a pinch, you can clean the corn and remove the kernels and corn cream as much as one day ahead (especially if using a super-sweet variety). Keep the bowl of corn well-covered and refrigerated since warmth encourages the natural sugar in corn to convert into starch, which adversely affects texture.