I'm starting to feel a sense of panic as the month of August begins to slip away. I'm certainly not ready to let summer go. There are so many good things to eat at the moment, so I am frantically cooking with as much of summer's best as possible. I've served slices of seedless watermelon for dessert on several occasions over the last few weeks. When it's sweltering, there's nothing more refreshing.
If you grow up in Indiana like I did, you can't escape corn. It's in the fields that surround you, relentlessly reaching to the horizon in every direction, outside of every town. As the catchphrase of a local amusement park says, "there's more than corn in Indiana." Having grown up there, I'm not entirely convinced you need anything else other than the best corn on earth. There are certainly many good things in Indiana. I love the hills of Bloomington in southern Indiana, where I went to Indiana University. I love the inland lakes, the woods near where I grew up and covered bridges over cool streams.
After having lunch this week with my childhood friend, Rachel, who spent a summer de-tasseling corn, I realize that there are some people who spent too much time in the fields to continue the love affair. She admitted that she only just recently started eating corn again after refusing the sweet stuff for many years.
I have a deep rooted craving for the pure white ears of sweet corn that comes from spending too much time away from home- too much time out of the country. If you've never tried the snowy, all white cobs of corn, try to get your hands on some. I won't refuse the yellow and white mixed, but these seem to be the sweetest and juiciest variety.
My Dad brought this corn and a box of ripe red tomatoes to Chicago from their local farm stand last week. We boiled the ears in salted water for 7 minutes and tested the kernels with a sharp knife to ensure it's tender and ready to serve. The tomatoes were ruby red and juicy ripe, not like the disappointing tomatoes we buy in the supermarkets today. I've been eating them with every meal and will be sad to see the last of them go.
In my opinion, there's no better way to enjoy corn than straight from the cob with lots of butter, salt and pepper. Everyone in my family has corn contraptions for the table- corn holders that have spikes on the end to make the crunching easier, butter dispensers, even corn plates. My Dad likes to take any leftover cobs (which is rare), shave the kernels into a nice big pile and then fry them in butter and season well.
In the event that you have more corn than you know what to do with, I can personally attest to the love people have for the Corn and Tomato Scramble I made on the 4th of July and I've made it several times over the summer.
Here's another idea from the latest issue of Gourmet magazine. It's a great version of creamed corn and is perfect with barbecued chicken.
Cheesy Creamed Corn with Cilantro
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
6 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cobs
2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp cornstarch
1 large garlic clove
handful of crumbled queso fresco or mild feta
handful of chopped cilantro
Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. Cook the scallions until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the corn and 1/2 tsp of salt and pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
Stir together the cream and cornstarch in a small bowl until combined. Add to the corn and simmer, stirring until thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer 1 cup of corn mixture to blender or food processor with garlic and puree until smooth. Return to the skillet and cook, stirring constantly until heated through.
Serve with cheese sprinkled on top and cilantro to garnish.
The sauce below is adapted from the same Gourmet article in the latest September issue. The Chipotle sauce can be compared to a barbecue sauce with a kick. I then altered the cooking method by flattening the chicken (taking out the spine and breastbone and quartering it) and then barbecuing it over indirect heat.
You can have your butcher do the flattening and removing of bones for you, but it's pretty simple to do at home. Alternatively, you could buy separate chicken pieces, but I'd recommend to buy them on the bone, including the breast, and with skin to keep it succulent and full of flavor.
Caramelized Chipotle Chicken
Adapted from Gourmet Magazine
1 whole organic, free range chicken, flattened and quartered
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 cup of ketchup
2 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped canned chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook the garlic until it's golden brown. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and add the onions. Cook until they are golden brown over a medium heat for about 15 minutes.
Add the garlic and remaining ingredients (except chicken) to the onions, and season with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper. Simmer slowly for about 25 minutes until the sauce slightly thickens.
You can do this the day ahead and chill the sauce. I would also recommend making extra as it's one of the tastiest bbq sauces I've ever made.
I like to pat the skin of the chicken dry and salt it as it's sitting in the refrigerator so it comes out crispy and full of flavor.
Once the sauce is cooled, rub half of it over your chicken pieces and cover for 4 hours- overnight.
Instead of roasting the chicken, I wanted to cook outside (while I still can!) and my husband heated the charcoal grill with a hot pile of coals on one side of the barbecue and a few coals sprinkled on the other half to produce a nice source of indirect heat for our chicken.
Place your chicken pieces skin side up and cook for 12-15 minutes. Baste with some more of your sauce after the chicken hits the grill.
Turn the pieces over and baste again. You can put the lid on the grill to caramelize the sauce.
Cook for another 12-15 minutes until the juices run clear.