I never called corn sweet until I moved to the Midwest.
In California, corn was just corn, something you ate with too much butter. But for four years now I’ve lived among farmers’ sons and for farmers’ sons, there isn’t just corn, but sweet white and sweet yellow and sweet multi—because here in the Midwest there’s also feed and seed and ethanol corn, a lot of it, and no one in his right mind would call that kind of corn sweet, whatever its color.
Seed corn. Feed corn. You say it with a kind of grimace. Cows eat it before we eat them. Yet the vast sweep of unsweet corn fields—bearded, detasselled, green, yellow, harvested, whatever—flat as a crisp new map stretched over a table, straight down to the geometrically flawless line of the Midwest horizon, is stunning.
Which is to say, I never loved corn until I moved here, never thought about it, never craved it, but now I do. Especially–and I mean Jesus H. is this stuff good–Thomas Keller’s creamed corn. It’s not your momma’s creamed corn, not even close: sweet corn, butter and cream, yes–but also lime juice, cayenne pepper and chives.
Home grown American food filtered through Mexico City. It’s brilliant. (And it is, incidentally, a great argument for fusion.) When a batch of it was simmering on the stove, I found Alan caressing it with a wooden spoon, shaking his head, chuckling. He had just taken a bite. This corn is so good it provokes uncomplicated glee. And we take our giggles where we can get them.
Thomas Keller’s Creamed Corn, Pan-Seared Trout
I paired the corn with trout, but you can use any protein you like, or none at all. The corn steals the show. Burying it under (for all other purposes, very good) trout seemed kind of silly, in retrospect.
(Barely adapted) from TK’s Ad Hoc at Home
– 4 ears sweet corn, shucked
– 1 large lime, zested and juiced
– 3 tablespoons good butter
– 3/4 cup heavy cream
– 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
– Chives, finely chopped
– Kosher salt and pepper
For the trout:
– 2 small trout, gutted, deheaded, boned, etc. (or 2 large trout filets) at room temperature
– Vegetable oil
– Kosher salt and pepper
Slice the kernels off the corn with a sharp knife, running it vertically along the cob with a supersharp knife. Remove to a large bowl, and scrape remaining kernels and milk off the cob with a cereal spoon.
In a large frying pan over medium high heat, melt the butter. When it begins to sizzle, add the corn and lime juice to taste (about 1.5 tbsp for mine). Season with salt. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the corn starts to sizzle and pop.
Meanwhile, prepare the trout. When it has reached room temperature, pat it dry with a paper towel and season it liberally, inside and out, with Kosher salt and black pepper. Heat vegetable oil a large skillet until it just starts to smoke. Carefully place seasoned trout in pan, cook on high for 2-3 minutes on each side, until the skin is browned and crispy.
Once the trout is in the pan, increase the heat under the corn to medium. Add cream, cayenne pepper and lime zest. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the cream is absorbed by the corn. Add another splash of it if you like your corn creamy. Season with Kosher salt and ground black pepper. Serve: with the trout, with fried chicken, with some fava beans from the farmer’s market, or really, with nothing at all. It’s just insanely good on its own. But the trout makes it a meal.