Mike Stines reports: It’s the season (May to September) for farm-fresh local corn… not that stuff shipped from Florida or wherever. Fresh corn is packed with flavor and should be cooked within a day of purchase before the sugars start converting to starch, as 25 percent of the sugar will turn to starch within one day of picking. (One school says the way to cook fresh corn is to bring a pot of boiling water to a row of corn and dunk the ears into the pot; clearly not a practical method.)
Sweet corn can be cooked in a variety of ways. The most popular are grilled in the husks, grilled without husks, grilled in aluminum foil with the husks removed, steamed, boiled and just by throwing the unhusked corn on a live fire (great for a camp fire or backyard fire pit). My preferred method is to simply grill the cleaned corn on a gas or charcoal fire until the husks are slightly charred and the kernels yield to light pressure.
When buying corn, select ears that feel full and are plump in your hand. The kernels should run all the way to the top of the ear. Look at the silk (tassels) sticking out at the top, it should be golden pale and slightly sticky. The husks should have a bright green color, not brown or wilted, and be tightly wrapped around the corn.
Grilled Sweet Corn with Cilantro-Lime-Chili Butter
Any leftover roasted corn could be used for corn salsa or cornbread. Do not use dried cilantro for this recipe as the taste and texture is completely different from fresh cilantro.
6 ears fresh sweet corn
For the compound butter:
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced and zested (about 1 tablespoon juice and 1 tablespoon zest)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne chili (or more to taste)
In a small mixing bowl combine the ingredients. Mix well until combined.
Lay out a piece of plastic wrap or parchment paper and form the butter into a log, about 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Twirl the ends of the plastic wrap to compress the butter into a tight log. Freeze the butter until firm, about three hours.
Allow the butter to warm at room temperature for about an hour and slice into 1/2-inch pieces or melt the butter and brush on the cooked corn.
The butter will keep, refrigerated, for one week or in the freezer for one month. (This is also good on grilled vegetables or meats.)
Cooking the corn:
Clean the corn by carefully pulling layers of the husks back to the base but leaving them attached. Remove the silk by rubbing the ears with a kitchen towel or damp paper towel. (If desired, brush the corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.) Pull the husks back around the kernels and secure with butcher’s twine.
Prepare the grill for two-zone cooking and bring the hotter side to medium, about 350 degrees F.
Place the prepared corn on the hot side of the grill and cook, rotating often, until the husks are lightly charred. When charred, place the corn on the indirect heat side of the grill or the top shelf. Close the cover and cook the corn for about 15 minutes or until tender.
Remove the corn from the grill and, using heat-proof mitts, pull back the husks and remove any remaining silk. Brush the corn with the compound butter and serve immediately.