Sweet Corn


I’m spending the week with my family at Emerald Isle, NC. We take a week every summer, rent a beach house here and spend every hour in each other’s presence. We do not go out for dinner in small groups, and spending time with friends or inviting non-family members over is frowned upon. This week is pretty much family time, all the time.

As you might imagine, I do most of the cooking and it’s actually something I enjoy. The week before our trip I treat like the lead-up to a long, drawn-out catering job, picking and packing the ingredients that scream summer to me. The only issue is that there are some freaking picky eaters in my family, so above all else, I always come down here with a shit-ton of corn. 

This year, Ben Davis, a new organic guy from Leggett Farm in Little Washington, brought me 200 ears of the most beautiful combination variety called “Obsession.” As best I can tell, there is yellow corn. It’s “corny,” produces a lot of milk, is nuanced in flavor and has a robust toothsome texture. Then there is white corn. Pure varieties of this, the most popular one being, Silver Queen, are sugar sweet and tender, but for me lack some of the earthiness and minerality I love about this grain (yes it’s a grain). Ben Davis’ “Obsession” is an example of combination corn, or ears made up of both yellow and white kernels.

“Obsession,” along with varieties like “Mystique” and “Peaches and Cream” give the eater the best of both worlds. Combination varieties represent most of what we serve and preserve at Chef and the Farmer these days. When eating straight off the cob, I love the little pop of the super-sweet white kernel against the more tenuous burst of the yellow one.

Today is Tuesday of a beach week that runs from Saturday to Saturday, and we have already had a shrimp boil with little, two-inch cobs of corn, corn grilled still in the husks with hamburgers, and tonight I’m making pork shoulder tacos with a watermelon corn salsa. I won’t belabor this blog with the rest of what I’ve made, just know that no one has complained about the corn.

Corn Tips 
Once corn has been picked, it is extremely important to keep it cool. Don’t waste anytime transferring ears to your refrigerator to avoid starchy, dry kernels.   Look for bright green, moist looking husks. If the husks have started to dry or turn brown, it means you are dealing with corn that’s been out of the field for a while.  

Some things I think pair particularly well with corn: basil, cilantro, thyme, garlic, ginger, leeks, lemon, lime, butter, chilies, bacon, tomatoes, feta cheese, fried fish, spice-rubbed and grilled pork or beef.