When it comes to preparing fresh sweet corn for one person, the microwave is unrivalled: Three minutes are spent inserting a single ear, still in its husk, into the machine at maximum power. Because the husk acts as a barrier to the passage of steam, the kernels take on a very sweet and juicy maize taste. As a result, butter is hardly unnecessary (nearly). But for a large group? You have more possibilities.
Take, for example, the method that I discovered by accident during the summer, which is based on the way that I generally prepare my hot dogs and sausages. I begin by preheating a grill by adjusting the gas or charcoal such that one side of the grill is hotter than the other side. After giving my hot dogs a charred exterior over direct heat, I move them to a pan made of aluminium and fill it with sauerkraut. I then place this pan on the side of the grill that is colder, and it is there that they maintain their fullness and retain their juices. Guests are thus allowed to eat at their own leisure (and avoids that lukewarm tray of wrinkly franks on the picnic table). The corn that is grilled using the same method, but with a tray full of a salted honey-butter coating instead of sauerkraut, turns out very well.
This approach is one of my favourites for a couple different reasons. The first aspect is the taste. Soon after the corn is harvested, its sugar starts to change into a tasteless and mealy starch, which is one of the disadvantages of sweet corn. Scientists have been working on this problem for more than a century, uncovering many gene mutations that are responsible for creating maize with a substantially greater sugar content than regular field corn and breeding kinds that keep their sugar for a longer period of time. However, even ultra-sweet contemporary kinds with names like Honey ‘N Pearl or American Dream may begin to lose sugar after being stored in the refrigerator for about a week. Other names for these types include:
The genes that confer increased sweetness on maize are also responsible for the plant’s diminished capacity to retain water. If you don’t consume sweet corn soon after it’s been cooked or take other steps to keep its moisture intact, it has a propensity to dry out. The usual piece of advise to soak corn in a saltwater brine makes this shrivelling much worse since the kernels lose moisture by osmosis, as I discovered out by doing side-by-side comparison studies.
Both of those problems can be solved by using my method of cooking. The wet cooking environment helps to maintain the corn kernels’ plumpness and juice content while the grilled corn rests in the liquid that is simmering, which is rotated periodically. At the same time, the water in the pan begins to evaporate at a more gradual pace, causing the honey and butter to reduce into a glossy glaze that complements the corn’s inherent sweetness without being too sugary. In addition to this, it gives you some more time, which allows you to cook your burgers or asparagus on the hot side of the grill, which is now freed up, while the corn maintains its warmth.
Additionally, the honey-butter foundation is quite malleable. There is no need to stop there when it comes to complementing the honey; a teaspoon of smoky, mild gochugaru and a sprinkling of chopped chives or parsley are also easy additions that work well. You may mix in the zest and juice of a lemon, a mound of minced fresh garlic, a tablespoon of Calabrian chilli paste, a few tablespoons of miso paste, and finish with a substantial quantity of roughly crushed black pepper. Alternately, you might give the glaze some flavour by adding one tablespoon of sambal oelek, one squeeze of lime, and a shower of chopped cilantro leaves. Even corn that has been stored in the vegetable crisper at the grocer since the previous Wednesday may be improved by using any one of these combinations.
In a world where taste was given priority above all considerations, I would plant the American Dream stalks on April 17; this would ensure that the 78-day maturation time would fall exactly on the Fourth of July. To cut down on the amount of time that passes between harvesting the corn, preparing it, and eating it, I would have the grill prepared and a large group of people gathering in the garden at the precise moment that the corn reached its highest level of maturity.
But in the real world, I depend on clever, practical culinary procedures that ensure wonderful outcomes regardless of how well I plan. These approaches guarantee delicious results because they are smart and practical. Even more sugar will be extracted from the maize after it has reached its full maturity.