Nature’s Rake, Two Ways

Gear up, there’s much to tell you.

Hello, my dear reader. I’m so sorry I’ve been away for so long. I haven’t felt much like being very adventurous in the kitchen, what with all the Covid-19, social isolation, quarantine craziness going on. I felt very anxious just going to the grocery store for the bare essentials, so I kept the outings short and sweet; just get in and get out, no time for extras. That being said, my family definitely enjoyed my home cooked meals; it’s just that they weren’t interesting enough to share with y’all. I also didn’t feel very motivated to do much writing. It’s hard to write about such a happy topic as food when you’re feeling pretty low emotionally.

So, the last couple of months were tough. We just focused on getting by each day and making the new world feel more normal. Now that the world is slowly opening up again, and the new virus cases keeps trending lower, I’m feeling more interested in experimenting with new recipes. My comfort zone is hearty meals in the fall and winter, so summer cooking is a bit of a challenge for me. I tend to make the same few, easy meals over and over. Lots of grilled meats, salads, and fresh vegetables. Corn is my favourite fresh vegetable.

I’ve always had a love affair with corn. Corn is my comfort food. Growing up, I used to love having a big bowl of cream corn and two slices of white bread and butter to dip into it. I know you’re probably gagging at the thought of cream corn as an actual meal, but I just loved it. I would sometimes switch it up and just open up a can of corn niblets, heat it up in the microwave with butter and salt, and dig in. When I was a poor student in university, I could always afford corn and bread. Even my Shepherd’s Pie has cream corn in it. We frequently make Chicken and Corn Chowder, which is good all year round. Mmm corn makes me happy.

Chicken Corn Chowder. Goes really well with cornbread. Just sayin’!

I had braces in Grade 10 until the end of my first year of university. So, I always felt self-conscious about eating anything that required me to bite into it, which hasn’t changed. Therefore, I didn’t have corn on the cob for over three years. Now, to many of you, this is no big deal. But for me, it was torture. My little hometown of Campbellton, New Brunswick would hold its annual Salmon Festival, and the Lion’s Club always had a booth where they sold corn on the cob; I’d take my money and go down to the corn booth on my bike and feast almost every day the festival was going on. Then, I got the braces on and Salmon Festival just wasn’t the same. I couldn’t ask them to please cut the corn off the cob! However I made up for lost time when the braces came off; I ate so much corn that it should have been enough to make me never want to eat it again. But here we are. The love for the delightful yellow cobs still holds fast. And now I can eat it with my lovely straight teeth.

“A light wind swept over the corn, and all nature laughed in the sunshine.” Anne Bronte

I love to go away on trips and I always end up eating corn in one way, shape, or form wherever I go. For my 40th birthday in Los Angeles, Steve took me to The Ivy in Beverly Hills for lunch. When I saw my two favourite foods on the menu (crab is my other love) I had to order them. So my fancy lunch consisted of corn chowder and crab cakes. And lots of wine, obvi. Steve thought I was ridiculous to get something so unadventurous for lunch, but I wasn’t sorry. It was scrumptious.

Corn Chowder and Crab Cakes. So good. Everything about this meal was superb. Highly recommend The Ivy if you’re in the Beverly Hills area.

When I was in Las Vegas a couple of years ago, Steve and I hit up a Mexican joint near the LINQ and I discovered yummy Mexican Street Corn. It was just the right amount of salty and spicy and it cured my hangover immediately. And our trip to San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf combined my two loves, corn and crab, in one delightful bowl of chowder.

Mexican Street Corn is messy but scrumptious.
This is the holy grail of chowders: Crab and Corn Chowder on a visit to San Francisco.

When we visited New Orleans and South Carolina, I found that that there was corn in almost every meal I ate. And if the meal didn’t have corn in it, it likely had spicy jalapeño cornbread as a side. I love cornbread when I’m having a bowl of chili or saucy ribs.

Cornbread muffins! Mmm

Now that the summer is upon us, we are doing a lot of grilling on the BBQ and smoking in Steve’s smoker I got him for Father’s Day. There is nothing tastier than a corn on the cob with some grilled steaks or smoked ribs.

The corn is the star of the show!

In years past, I had an annual summer party that featured a corn boil, and the folks seemed to like it. But I found that boiling corn all day for a big crowd was hot and exhausting. I also hated the idea of rolling corn in communal butter. Yuck. Then, when we got a cottage in Muskoka, I really didn’t want to heat up the cottage with boiling corn on the stove all day. And I didn’t want to go through the trouble of putting the pot of corn on the fire pit and smell like a campfire all day. So, the big corn boils stopped. However, I discovered two ways to prepare corn that require minimal effort and no communal butter is required.

Corn and pulled pork with two types of slaw Such a yummy meal!

Nature’s Rake: Milk and Honey Corn

I loved boiled corn on the cob, but hate the messiness of the butter that you add at the table. A couple of years ago, I scanned the internet for recipes for corn that didn’t require butter at the table. I also wanted something Southern to compliment pulled pork and coleslaw, which is a staple summer meal for us. I came across a recipe for Milk and Honey Corn and I was intrigued; of course, over the years, I’ve added ingredients and adjusted the recipe to suit my taste. The recipe still asks you to boil your corn, so it’s good for a small group, but all the ingredients are boiled in the pot with the corn so it infuses flavours and needs only a bit of salt and pepper at the table. Huzzah!

A Word About Old Bay Seasoning

You need this in your life if you make a lot of seafood dishes. Trust me.

If you haven’t heard of Old Bay seasoning, you are missing out. I hadn’t heard of it until I tried the Milk and Honey Corn recipe. It’s very popular in New England and the southern states, where they use a lot of seafood. It’s a spice blend that has everything from celery salt, to pepper, to paprika, to cloves. It’s not just for seafood dishes; it compliments chowders, vegetable dishes, chicken, fish, you name it. There are a ton of recipes to make your own, so don’t fret if you can’t find it. But it’s a must for these two recipes. I have a big tin of it on hand and use it to season dishes as I would use salt and pepper.

“This corn will teach to you, should you peel away the husk, and be willing to open your ears.” Anthony Liccione

Those babies are soaking up the glorious flavours as they simmer. Delectable!

Milk and Honey Corn

Ingredients:

  • 8 ears of corn, husks and silk removed, cut in half, ends trimmed (or leave it whole)
  • Water for boiling
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 3/4 cup cream (half and half and 18% work well)
  • 1/2 cup butter (that’s one stick)
  • 3 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or a few dashes of your favourite hot sauce, or to taste (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp Old Bay Seasoning (or more)
  • 1 tsp each salt and pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tsp parsley, dried or fresh, for garnish (optional)

Method:

1. Prepare your corn.

2. Put your corn in a large stock pot and add enough water to cover the cobs. Then set it on the stove. Add the milk, cream, butter, honey, Old Bay seasoning, salt, pepper, and cayenne/hot sauce, if using.

3. Bring the corn up to a near boil on medium/high heat, stirring often to get the butter melted. When it’s just about ready to boil, lower the temperature, and simmer for 15 minutes.

This is the recipe doubled for a crowd.

4. Remove the corn to a serving dish. Take a cupful of the cooking liquid and add your parsley to it. Stir it. Pour it over your corn. Add a touch more salt, pepper, and Old Bay seasoning. Serve.

Milk and Honey Corn. No parsley because kids ate this batch, and we all know how much kids like green, leafy things.

Nature’s Rake: Roasted Corn

After making Milk and Honey Corn for the past few years, poor Steve was yearning for a change. It’s good and we all love it. But, like anything, doing the same thing over and over gets boring. And sometimes you need all the elements on your stove and a big pot takes up a lot of room. I was on the hunt for an easy corn recipe that didn’t require a lot of work on my part. Enter roasted corn.

Most of us have been to an outdoor food festival where vendors sell grilled corn. A lot of the time, the corn remains in the husks and they are cooked on a BBQ and are all charred, which is so yummy. I’ve had corn like that at Calgary Stampede and at the Burlington Ribfest, and its amazing, but so labour-intensive. You have to really watch the corn to make sure they don’t burn. And then you have to dip them in clarified butter and season them, so it’s quite a mess to eat. No bueno.

I like the idea of grilling corn, but I don’t like to use the barbecue. So, when I came across a recipe for roasting corn in the oven, I thought I’d give it a whirl. And, dear reader, I was not disappointed.

I wish you could taste this corn. It’s to die for.

Roasting the corn brings out it’s natural sweetness. Plus, the seasonings adhere to the corn as it cooks, so you really don’t have to dress your corn at the table. Also, roasting the corn loosens the kernels from the cob so it’s very easy to eat; if you have dentures or you’re a kid with loose teeth, this is the corn for you. No need to cut it off the cob, unless you don’t like to bite into things, which I totally get. Another great thing about roasting corn is that you can basically put it in the oven and go have a tasty beverage on your deck and not have to watch it too closely. This is the most important thing when you’re cooking for a group of people; you want to be able to be social, not distracted by a pot boiling away on the stove.

I don’t know about you, but this empty cob is so satisfying.

A Word About Stoneware

There is nothing wrong with using a traditional aluminum cookie sheet covered in foil when making greasy, messy meals in the oven. But, if you’ve got a stoneware baking pan, you can’t really bring yourself to bake with anything else.

I have had a large Pampered Chef stoneware bar pan for many years. It’s one of my favourite kitchen items. I use it every time I need to roast anything in my oven. What’s great about it is that it becomes pretty nonstick after it’s been used a bunch of times. And you don’t really have to open your oven to turn things over. Things just don’t blacken and burn if you use it right. I use it when I’m baking chicken breasts, making French fries, and doing my Salmon and Veggies. I like how evenly the stoneware distributes heat and the pretty colour it gives on the underside of my food. It’s pretty easy to clean too. And it can last for many years if you take care of it properly. It eliminates the need for foil, which some people say is not great to cook with because of the aluminum that can get into your food. Anyway, I’ve used my stoneware pan with great success for roasting corn, so if you have one, use it.

This is my new stoneware bar pan from Pampered Chef; my old one is up at the cottage now. The corn is prepped and ready for the oven!

Roasted Corn on the Cob

Ingredients:

  • 8 ears of corn, husks and silk removed, cut in half, ends trimmed (or leave it whole)
  • 1/2 cup of melted butter (one stick)
  • 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp dried parsley (for garnish, optional)

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil. Or, spray your stoneware baking pan with cooking spray.

2. Prepare your corn. Arrange them on your baking sheet.

3. In a small bowl, melt your butter; about 30 seconds in the microwave should do it. Take it out and add Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper to it. Stir. Brush the cobs with 1/3 of your melted butter mixture.

4. Put the pan of corn in the oven and roast for 25 minutes.

5. After 25 minutes, take the pan out of the oven, flip your corn over, and brush with another third of your melted butter mixture. Put it back in the oven for 20-25 minutes, less time if your corn is on the small side, longer if they are pretty big cobs.

6. When the corn is done, take it out of the oven and transfer the corn to a serving dish. Take your leftover melted butter mixture and add the honey and parsley to it, if using. Stir. Brush it onto your corn, or pour it on, your choice. Allow folks to add their own salt and pepper at the table if they need it. Voila!

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