Joni Woolf: Corn is Almost Ready for Gathering—and Cooking!

Published 10:47 am Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Driving through Oglethorpe on Highway 26 last week, I passed the Chase Corn sign, and there in bold letters was the promise: “Corn is Tasseling.”  This means that in two or three weeks, that wonderful corn will be available at their roadside stand, and also here in Americus at Rudy’s Happy Patch, where you can buy Chase Corn as long as the season lasts. One of the true delights of the summer vegetable season, corn can be prepared in simple, creative and delicious ways.  Back in January, when I was in the midst of winter doldrums, I offered a recipe for succotash, one of the many ways to eat the season’s finest.  There are other ways, some very simple, all just as good, and today we are offering some of them for your reading and eating pleasure. My favorite variety, Silver Queen, is a late bloomer, but it is worth the wait. I remember my father growing it on his two-acre garden plot, and telling me to eat it on the day I picked it, because the sugar would go back in the cob at day’s end! It would not be as good tomorrow, he said.
Perhaps the simplest, easiest way to prepare corn is to shuck it, silk it, and throw a few ears in boiling water; in ten to twelve minutes you have corn-on-the cob. Just slather with butter, salt and pepper and you’re done.  Or if you prefer cream style, cut the kernels from the cob with a scraper or a sharp knife (going back over the cob to remove all the liquid).  Put in skillet or casserole dish with two tablespoons melted butter, and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.  If it’s young and fresh and tender, 20 minutes is plenty of time.
Then there are recipes that require a little more time, and a few more ingredients. They’re worth it. So check these out, and add them to your corn vocabulary.  The first, for corn chowder, was served in our restaurant (CJs in the Maze) the two summers we were in business, and was a hit with all who discovered it. It was created by Emeril Lagasse several years ago, and remains my go-to recipe for corn in chowder-style.

Corn Chowder
4 ounces bacon, chopped
1 cup finely chopped onions
one half cup finely chopped carrots
one half cup finely chopped celery
2 tablespoons minced garlic
three quarter cups finely chopped red bell peppers
5 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 7 ears)
one quarter cup all-purpose flour
2 quarts chicken stock
1 and one half cups peeled russet potatoes, cut in half inch cubes
1 tablespoon salt
one quarter teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 cup half-and-half
Finely chopped fresh parsley, for garnish

Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat and cook bacon until crispy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bacon and drain on paper towels. Add onions, carrots and celery and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers and corn to the pot and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Sprinkle the flour into the pot and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and stir to with a whisk to combine. Add the potatoes and bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer and continue to cook 20 minutes. Season the chowder with the salt and cayenne and stir in the half-and-half. Serve with the bacon and parsley as garnish. Note: This can be made without bacon; simply saute vegetables in 2 tablespoons olive oil.
I have combined the ingredients from two different sources for the following recipe for Maque Choux: the Fresh Market Cookbook, and a very old issue of Southern Living. (Maque Choux means mock cabbage, but I have no idea why. This recipe bears no resemblance to any cabbage I was ever served—or cooked.)

Maque Choux
8 ears fresh corn, husked and silked, and cut from cob
1 large onion, chopped
one half cup chopped green bell pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped
one half pound andouille sausage, cooked and diced
one quarter cup green onion tops
one half teaspoon salt
one half teaspoon pepper

Saute onion and pepper in hot olive oil in large skillet over medium heat, till tender. Add corn, tomato and sausage. Cook, stirring often, 15 minutes. Stir in green onions, salt and pepper; cook 5 minutes. This dish is not only delicious; it is colorful, easy to prepare and most folks really like it—even with its weird name.
The next sign will say, “Corn arrives tomorrow!” Watch the news. Check with Rudy’s. Don’t be late.

Joni Woolf, a writer and editor, now lives in Schley County, having moved from her home in Macon several years ago. Contact her at