Every so often, I get a reminder that South Florida is a part of the American South – not a bad reminder; but a yummy, delicious culinary reminder. Corn is one of those foods that provide a yummy, delicious reminder.
In the south, Corn is revered. We eat it at breakfast (hominy grits) and have it at lunch (roasted corn on the cob) and we have it for dinner, or supper, (fresh cut creamed corn with a serious kick of black pepper served along side thick cuts of fried, salty bacon). Sometimes that might happen in one day. Then there is corn bread, corn pones, corn muffins, cornmeal breading, and a fried cornmeal batter that we call hoecakes. There is also cornmeal porridge, cornmeal dressing or stuffing.
Every year the Dade County Youth Fair rolls into town, I look forward to getting fresh roasted corn on the cob. Though it now costs $3.50 for one well-roasted, charred ear of corn, it is well worth it! When the vendor pulls back the crackly outer husks and limp silk and tie them back to create a handle, your mouth waters at the anticipation of your teeth piercing that sweet roasted crunchy corn. Then the vendor dips that roasted ear into melted butter (or not – I prefer it plain with no melted butter). This is going to get messy, you tell yourself as you snatch as many napkins as you can before the vendor gives you the side-eye.
The most recent reminder of our love affair with corn came in the version of corn pudding. I was searching for a starch for dinner the other night and I did not want to use rice, or pasta, or potatoes, or barley, or couscous, or bulgur wheat, or bread. I had some fresh corn in the house. Since it was just a few days after my Dade County Youth Fair affair, I did not want to roast the corn. Therefore, after sizing up the pantry and, looking out the window at, the huge patch of fresh flat-leaf parsley and thyme growing in my garden, our love affair with corn pudding was about to begin.
My Recipe: Baked Corn Pudding serves 8
4 ears fresh corn on the cob, shucked
6 Tbsp unsalted butter, separated
1 tsp unsalted butter, softened
1 med yellow onion, diced
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup plain yellow cornmeal, fine ground
3 cups unsweetened almond or soymilk (dairy milk will work)
2 sprigs fresh thyme
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp kosher salt, separated
1 Tbsp granulated sugar, optional
1 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
½ tsp cayenne pepper
water, for boiling
Preheat oven to 350-degrees; butter a 2 ½ to 3 quart glass baking dish with teaspoon of softened unsalted butter
Using a very sharp knife, remove the kernels from the corn cob by cutting the bottom of the ear, through the cob, so that the ear stands on a flat surface vertically; stand each ear on a rimmed, shallow pan and cut the kernels from the cob moving the blade from top to bottom
The first cut should cut through the kernels and the second cut should remove the complete kernels; you will have 2½ to 3 cups freshly cut sliced corn kernels
Bring a large pot of water to a boil; add 1 Tbsp kosher salt; add fresh cut corn kernels; cook for a minute; drain; and set aside to cool
Melt 5 Tbsp of butter in a sauce pan over medium-high heat; add onion; sauté until onions become translucent, about 3 minutes; add all-purpose flour; stir well to combine
Add almond or soymilk; add sprigs of thyme; reduce to medium heat and cook for 5 – 6 minutes, stirring constantly until sauce starts to thicken; remove from heat
Whisk eggs in a separate bowl; ladle ½ cup of sauce into the eggs; whisk until well-combined; add another ½ cup of sauce into the egg mixture until the temperature of the eggs is the same as the temperature of the sauce – this is easy to do by using your finger to gauge the temperature of both mixtures
Once the temperatures are the same, add the egg mixture into the larger saucepan with the remaining of the sauce
Remove the thyme sprigs from the saucepan, add the remaining 1 Tbsp of kosher salt, granulated sugar, fresh cracked black pepper, and cayenne pepper; stir well to combine
Add cooked corn kernels, flat-leaf parsley, and fine ground yellow cornmeal; fold until everything is well combine
Pour mixture into a 2 ½ or 3 quart glass baking dish
Bake for 45 minutes on the center rack of the oven; remove from oven; center will be slightly jiggly
Melt remaining tablespoon of butter; drizzle melted butter over the corn pudding; return to oven and cook for another 10 minutes
This Baked Corn Pudding relies on making one classical French sauce, béchamel (actually a soubise sauce with the addition of onions), and using a standard cooking technique, tempering, which involves incorporating the eggs into the warm soubise sauce without allowing the eggs to scramble. The sauce, along with the addition of the fine-ground cornmeal, provides a very creamy-textured mouth-feel to the pudding. The tempering ensures that the eggs lighten the pudding, almost as light as a soufflé, without the having lumps of cooked egg ruining the texture.
Of course, none of the culinary stuff is going to matter when you serve this pudding. All anyone is going to ask is if they can have seconds… and they will want to know when you will make this again. Of course, none of the culinary stuff is going to matter when you serve this pudding. All anyone is going to ask is if they can have seconds… and they will want to know when you will make this again.
So when you do, make the Baked Corn Pudding again that is, get creative with it:
Add some diced red and green bell peppers to the mix
Or maybe some minced jalapeno and Monterey jack cheese (omit the thyme or substitute that for chopped cilantro or oregano)…
Or cook some crispy bacon, crumble it and add it to the batter…
Or try substituting the fresh thyme for fresh basil (omitting the cayenne pepper)…
Or diced smoked ham and cheddar cheese will also make nice additions…
Or sautéed leeks….
Or just sharp cheddar cheese…
After all, every love affair needs variety to keep things interesting.
always in good T.A.S.T.E – cause you gottatastethis!