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Fear Conquered: Corn off the Cob
“I’m NOT a picky eater,” Boyfriend Javelin protests. It’s summer, two years ago, and we’re standing in our remodeled kitchen around a bag of corn ears.
“But you don’t like corn,” I point out, looking meaningfully at the bag on the counter.
“I like corn on the cob,” he corrects, half-smiling.
“I’m not making corn on the cob,” I say petulantly. Because he’s not a picky eater. And because I hate using our Weber charcoal grill that NEVER seems to get hot enough. “And you also don’t like pumpkin. Or sweet potatoes. Or yams.”
“I like yams the way YOU make them,” he says, half-glaring, half-smiling. He knows I don’t really think he’s picky.
“And you don’t like rhubarb,” I continue. “Even the way I make it.”
“Hey,” he says, taking a step forward. “I like rhubarb if it’s mixed with something else. Like strawberries or blueberries.”
“Who makes rhubarb with blueberries?” I shoot back with as much disdain as I can muster. There’s probably hundreds of recipes with blueberries and rhubarb. Although I’ve never seen them. Or tried them. But they probably exist. Maybe. “Besides,” I say, my voice dripping with mock scorn. “If you mix rhubarb, then it’s some kind of berry mixture and it’s not rhubarb.”
“You can still taste the rhubarb!” Boyfriend Javelin growls. Maybe a bit too much mock scorn is seeping through.
“You also don’t like pecans or walnuts,” I press on. Because he really is picky about nuts. It has nothing to do with allergies. He’ll pick them out of cookies, brownies, cakes, breads. About anything, really. Picky, picky.
“And yet,” Boyfriend Javelin says, his face breaking into a grin as he steps closer. “Somehow pecans and walnuts keep find their way into everything.”
I fight a grin of my own. Not successfully. Because I’m guilty of sneakign them into things just to see if I can get away with it. “I’m just saying,” I persist. Trying to sound like I really mean it. “You’re a picky eater.”
“I am not,” he pleads. “I just have preferences. There’s some things I like better than others. Everybody’s that way.”
“You don’t like CORN!” I give him my best McKayla Maroney disapproval face. Well. It couldn’t have been a McKayla Maroney face because nobody had ever heard of McKayla Maroney then. Except for those that had. I’m not one of them. And it’s hard to scowl when you’re also grinning.
“Nooo,” he corrects, drawing out the word and rolling his eyes. “I do like corn. Just on the cob.”
“What if I cut it off the cob?” I ask.
“Then I wouldn’t like it as much,” he admits. “I’d still eat it, though.” And he smiles. Because he knows I’m about to call him picky again.
“What’s the difference between on the cob or off the cob?” I ask, throwing up my hands in mock frustration. Because I’m enjoying this. And because we both know he’s going to cave eventually.
“I don’t know,” he says evasively. “Maybe the butter I put on it?”
“I’ll put butter in,” I say immediately, cocking my head to one side. “What else is wrong with it? Besides being easier to eat.”
He rolls his eyes but he’s also smiling. “Whatever.”
So I cut the corn off the cob. I add butter. I add salt and pepper. I had onion and bell pepper. And I serve it up with the hotdogs from the stupid Weber grill that just won’t get hot enough.
“So?” I ask, after a bite of corn and a bite of hotdog. The hotdog doesn’t have nearly enough char. Stupid grill. And the corn is over-salted. “Do you like corn this way?”
“It’s...” he pauses and I know he’s looking for a way to say it constructively. My feelings are instantly bruised. Even though the corn is over salted. And there might be too much black pepper. And the ratio of corn to onion and bell pepper is wrong. “It’s not bad...” he begins slowly. “It’s just like there’s something a little off about it. Maybe something missing.”
“Like what?” I ask, trying to suppress the bruising. I don’t really like the corn either.
“Well...” Boyfriend Javelin says thoughtfully. “Maybe you could add some parsley or something. It needs something fresh like that. Maybe thyme.”
“Thyme?” I repeat back incredulously. “Thyme? Thyme would’t go with this.”
“Yes it could,” he insists. “Or maybe rosemary. It needs something like that.”
“I’m not doing thyme or rosemary,” I snap. “They’ll overpower everything. Maybe parsley.” He hasn’t said anything about the salt and pepper. Which irritates me. Because seriously. Thyme and rosemary? “What about the salt and pepper?” I prompt, taking another bite. Good grief, it’s salty! And peppery.
“There’s too much salt,” he says. “And not enough pepper.” And he’s not joking.
I roll my eyes. Thyme and rosemary indeed!
We don’t eat corn for almost a year. We’re busy with things like selling a house and relocating to Virginia. Then it’s Thanksgiving with his family and we’re scrounging up sides. There’s a bag of frozen corn and leftover onion and pepper. Even some parsley leftover from the stuffing. So I try to fix my mistakes from my last run-in with confetti corn. Less cracked black pepper, less salt, a handful of parsley. And no thyme or rosemary.
Boyfriend Javelin leans in close at the dinner table. “It’s pretty good,” he whispers.
“What was that?” his mom asks from across the table. Unlike her son, she loves corn. With or without the cob.
“Nothing,” Boyfriend Javelin says. “I just said I thought the corn was good.”
I’m glowing. Not literally, of course. Although my cheeks do turn a little pink when I get compliments. And I get a little warm. Which might have had something to do with all the cracked black pepper. There’s still too much in the corn. And there’s still something missing. But Boyfriend Javelin is eating corn without a cob.
Fresh corn season rolls around. We buy a ridiculous number of ears and I start testing over and over again. We’re both sick of corn. We can’t decide if one batch of confetti corn is better than the next. Or worse. Or the same. Or just more of the same stupid corn.
September rolls around and it’s finally the end of corn season, with just one last bag of corn in the fridge. We’re about to leave for vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina and we need to empty out the fridge. So it’s confetti corn again. The corn, onions and bell pepper are already in the pan when I go in search of parsley. I’m out.
“What about using up this basil?” Boyfriend Javelin asks, pulling out a packet of basil leaves hidden in the cheese drawer.
“That might work,” I say, thoughtfully. It’s not thyme and it’s not rosemary. And just the fragrance of the basil with the other sautéing ingredients smells completely different from previous attempts at confetti corn. I take a taste. Sweet corn with sweet red bell pepper, the unmistakable zing of onion - and the bright freshness of basil.
“It’s really good,” Boyfriend Javelin says 5 minutes later, looking up from the mound of confetti corn on his plate. “I think it’s the basil.”
“It’s definitely the basil,” I say. Although not over-salting helps. And not over-peppering helps. And having the right balance of onion, bell pepper and corn helps. “I think basil is the perfect herb for this.”
“Yeah,” he agrees thoughtfully. “I wouldn’t use parsley again.” He says nothing about thyme or rosemary but smiles mischievously.
“What?” I ask, although I suspect I know about he’s about to say.
“Needs more nutmeg,” he teases. There’s not a bit of nutmeg in the corn and we both know it. I pretend to glare. He grins a takes more corn. Finally. Corn without a cob and no sad leftovers.
Have a save and wonderful holiday, everyone. Gobble Gobble and Happy Thanksgiving!
STORY | PRINTABLE RECIPE | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
|You will need 3 cups of sweet corn, either fresh or frozen. If using fresh corn, stand each ear on end on a small bowl in the center of a large baking sheet and slice off the kernels with a sharp knife|
|Don't worry if the corn kernels make a mess - save cleanup until you've cut off all the kernels from each ear of corn|
|You will need approximately 4 ears of corn for 3 cups of kernels|
|Heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat|
|While oil heats, prepare your onion|
|Dice the onion. I use a dicing gadget to save time.|
|Add diced onion to the hot pan and saute for 5 minutes until translucent|
|While onion sautes, slice bell pepper flesh away from core and seeds|
|Dice pepper into similar sized pieces as onion|
|When onion is translucent, add diced bell pepper and saute another 3 minutes until pepper is softened|
|Raise heat to medium high and add corn. If using frozen corn, heat corn in pan until defrosted before continuing.|
|Add 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt|
|Add 1/4 teaspoon of cracked black pepper|
|Add 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika. Stir spices together and saute corn mixture for another 3-5 minutes until corn is cooked, stirring frequently.|
|While corn mixture finishes, prepare basil. You will need a large handful of leaves.|
|Stack and then roll leaves and then slice (julienne) the leaves.|
|Remove corn mixture from heat and stir through basil and 2 Tablespoons of unsalted butter|
|Serve immediately for best flavors|
STORY | PHOTO TUTORIAL | HUNGRY FOR TIPS?
Fresh Confetti Corn
Prep Time: 15 min
Cook Time: 10 min
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Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 3 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn, about 4 ears cut from cobs
- 1 large yellow onion, diced
- 1 large red bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper, heaping
- 1/4 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 large handful fresh basil, julienned
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- In a large saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat
- Add the diced onion and saute over medium heat until just translucent (about 3 minutes), then add the diced bell pepper and saute another 2-3 minutes until softened
- Raise the heat to medium-high and add the corn; season with salt, pepper and paprika; saute for another 3-5 minutes until the corn is cooked, stirring frequently
- Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the basil and butter; serve immediately
An original recipe by Javelin Warrior. © 2012 Javelin Warrior. All rights reserved.
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Hungry for Tips?
- I know it's tempting to use red onion instead of yellow to try to make this confetti corn even more colorful. Unfortunately, the glorious purple color of the onion changes into a dull grayish hue when sauteed. Not pretty and definitely does not enhance the colorful mix of your confetti corn. So I stick with yellow onion.
- Smoked paprika adds a wonderful background note to this dish without overpowering the other flavors. It's almost as if you had cooked the corn over a charcoal grill (almost). Just don't go crazy with the paprika or it will dominate everything.
- Despite the tale you just read about over-salted confetti corn, you really do need to season corn well because it's so sweet. The salt helps bring out the flavors of the onion and bell pepper to contrast with the corn. If you're nervous about adding the whole 1 1/2 teaspoons, start with 1 teaspoon and then adjust to suit your taste buds.
- You've got to use fresh basil. The dried stuff has it's place, but it doesn't pack the same fresh brightness of fresh basil. And the basil really is what separates this confetti corn from boring confetti corn.
- If you're on a reduced-fat diet, you can leave out the final 2 Tablespoons of butter. But the final dish won't be quite as silky and delicious. It's just the nature of butter.
- You can prep all the ingredients up to an hour in advance, but don't start sauteing everything until just before you're ready to serve. Confetti corn can be reheated, but the basil isn't as bright and the bell pepper and onion flavors fade a bit.
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