JR and I seem to be lazy socializers, despite our inherently social nature. We tend to prefer our yard to any restaurant or bar, which means that when we’re in the mood to see people other than ourselves, we’re likely to host an evening fire pit next to the chicken coop. Yee-haw. And don’t mind that smell now, okay?
(Actually, there is no smell. For real. But I couldn’t quite resist the opportunity to be a smart-arse right out of the gates.)
A few years ago, at one of these fire pit events, we served local corn on the cob. And this corn was grilled. Our friends, all far older than 15, were impressed, having never before had grilled corn. And JR and I were surprised. Surely we couldn’t be the only people who grill corn?
Further investigation revealed that of course we aren’t the only people who grill corn, but we appear to be in a small minority. At my favorite farm stand, I was queried about the process by one of the employees when I informed her of my intent to grill the 12 ears weighing down my shopping bag. The woman next to me in line whipped her head around, listening intently to my explanation.
Sure, this is only anecdotal evidence, but with flavor that borders on corn creme brulee, you’d think grilling would be the method of choice for at least the first month that local sweet corn is available. You know, when the excitement of local corn is still sweeping you up in its current, compelling you to buy corn nightly – which means that you also eat it nightly – well before you start to grow tired of corn, sometime toward the end of August (it happens. At least to me it does. Not to JR, though. Definitely not to JR. He buys corn on the cob right up until it’s at its mealy worst, when the last few bushel baskets are begging for customers to remove the spindly ears during that first week in October, the very last week that corn remains in the fields here. Yes. Even then, he still buys corn.).
Ah, but back to our corn nouveau. The corn of which we are enamored. Giving this early summer corn the grilling treatment results in corn so sublime that it barely requires butter, though the addition only adds to that aforementioned corn creme brulee flavor – better with butter, as they say.
And, yes, the process is a bit more involved than the 12 minutes to perfect steamed corn (12 minutes is JR’s calculation, as he is the Master of Corn here), however, you must try grilling at least once this summer. At least once.
First things first, strip the husks down so that there are no floppy husk ribbons at the top of the ear.
JR missed a floppy husk ribbon on this one (I’m sure he removed it in the end. He’s good that way.). The next step is to yank the silks from the top of the ear. No need to dig out the silks within the husks, just the clearly visible ones are the ones to be removed.
Ooooh. Action shot.
This is what your ears should look like before moving on to the next step. To prepare for the next step, fill a large stock pot with water, as you are soon to soak the ears.
Gather the ears all together so that you don’t need to make a second trip to the soaking pot. We’re one-trip wonders over here. Heaven forbid we walk back and forth, forth and back.
You’ll need to soak the ears for one hour, flipping them at the half-hour mark if they aren’t completely submerged to start.
Soaking the cobs traps water within the husks, helping to steam the corn while it’s grilling. And, in what might be considered the better of the two cob-water-soaking benefits, it also prevents the dreaded husk inferno within your grill.
It does not, however, prevent your ears from resembling a craggy-nosed witch’s harvest-season door decoration at the end of the cooking process.
At the end of the soaking hour, preheat the grill to high if using a gas grill, or create a hot bed of coals in your charcoal grill (charcoal grilling, of course, lends additional smoky flavor to the corn, and is also worth the effort. For the purpose of this post, the timings given are for high heat on a covered gas grill, though the visual cues can be used to guide you if you’re grilling with charcoal.).
JR likes to chop the stem off of the cob before grilling. I like to leave it intact because it helps the husks stay on as you grill.
Remove the corn from the water. If you have a garden or potted plants, you can use the soaking water to water your plants if, like us, you worry about water waste.
Place the ears on the grill, close the cover of the grill, and let the corn cook for 5 to 7 minutes, then rotate the ears one-quarter rotation, cover, and cook for another 5 to 7 minutes. This shot below is of the first turn of the ears.
Turn the ears four times total, 20 to 24 minutes total cooking time, until the husks are blackened, and a few of the exposed kernels are charred.
On the last turn, you may hear some popping. Not to worry, it’s completely normal, and it’s unlikely you’ll even be able to identify which of the kernels have popped once the husks have been stripped away.
Within the black and brittle husks should lie golden kernels.
Remove the corn from the grill, and allow the ears to cool slightly, at which point you can serve them forth. If you’ve left the stem on, you can advise your guests to carefully peel back the remaining husks, which they can then fold over the stem, a stem that is now a handle, and then proceed to gnaw into the corn.
Or, if you’re going for a more demure approach to dinnertime, you can wait for the ears to cool slightly, then remove the husks and silks prior to serving so that your dining companions need not to tuck husks under their hands.
If, even after allowing the ears to cool slightly, the husks are still a bit too warm to the touch, you can use a pair of tongs and an oven mitt to protect your hands from the heat while digging down to get to the corn creme brulee cobs.
Any leftover corn can be shaved from the cob and used in a salad, to top a pizza (tomato, grilled corn, fresh mozzarella, and green onion pizza anyone?), or simply for snacking.
Estimated cost for 6 ears of corn plus butter: $4.00. Corn costs 55-cents per ear here in Southeastern Massachusetts, and, with a little time and some effort as two of the four ingredients here (that’s corn, time, effort, and butter), the corn costs just $3.30. One stick of salted sweet cream butter costs 70-cents, and there we are with 6 servings of sublime summertime sweet corn.
Dinner tonight: Grilled Eggplant and Zucchini from the Garden with Rigatoni and Fresh Tomato Sauce. Estimated cost for two: $5.00. The eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes for this dish are all from our garden, and therefore practically free. However, in the interest of pricing this out so that the ingredients may be purchased (and knowing that I always make enough for four so that there are lunchtime leftovers), the eggplant costs $1.99 per pound, I’ll use 1 pound. The zucchini costs $1.25 per pound, in goes one pound of that, and, in this so-far-so-good-no-late-blight summer, local field tomatoes cost $2.95 per pound, and I’ll use approximately one pound of tomatoes (1 medium). The pasta costs $1.99 per box, the olive oil for the entire dish will cost 72-cents, and the garlic will cost around 10-cents. I’m going to use oregano from the garden as well, so I’ll calculate $1.00 for the purchase of that. The total cost is, quite oddly, $10.00 for 4, or $2.50 per person. The actual cost at our house is $1.99 (pasta) + 72-cents (olive oil) + 10 cents (garlic) + 18-cents each for each piece of produce, so roughly 72-cents (I based this on the cost per plant divided by the total yield of each plant, and on the conservative side, ended up at 17.5 cents per piece) + nothing for the oregano, as that has long since paid me back for the investment. Long, long since. So the total for four, with produce from the garden is $3.53, or 88-cents per serving. Sweet.