Corn at the farmers' market
And lo, and behold, the corn was harvested (starting about July 15 this year in the northeastern communities).
And it was good, brother.
And it was even better, brother, if you had applied a few simple cooking tips to one of nature's simplest dishes.
Oh, yes, there is great annual controversy about a dozen corn cooking matters that, in the end, matter not, or not a heck of a lot. For example: do I put my ears of corn in cold water and merely bring them to a boil? Or do I submerge them in boiling waters, and cook them for a specific amount of time? If so...how much time? Three minutes? Five minutes? Seven minutes?
In my kitchen, not much time is wasted worrying about these things. Oh, I'll give you a guideline before this story is out...but I think it much more important that you faithfully follow a little-known rule, the Silk-and-Tassel Rule, which maketh all the difference. This is the gestalt theory of corn: cook it in its wholeness.
It's practically a summer religion to me.
The Silk-and-Tassel Rule says "thou shalt not shuck your corn too much before cooking!" And here's the theory...
First of all, with a really fresh corn, the husk of the corn, containing those fine silk threads, along with the brown tassels at top, doesn't really want to clean up easily! You've seen this mess a hundred times, silk and tassel flying everywhere in your kitchen. But if you only partially shuck your corn, pulling off only modest amounts of leaves and silk, your pre-cook job will be easier, and your kitchen will be cleaner.
Now, if you do leave behind a considerable amount (say, 2/3) of husks, silk and tassel, and boil those with the corn...you're in for an even bigger benefit: your corn will taste more corny after it has boiled! The leaves, silk and tassels create a kind of corn "stock" in the corn water, intensifying flavor!
Ears of corn mostly unshucked in the cooking water
And then there's one more practical benefit: when you finally do remove the vegetal matter at the end of cooking...the silk, now drowned, won't fly everywhere!
So here's the whole process:
1) Select freshly-field-picked corns that are heavy for their weight. The later they were picked at the farm, and the cooler they've remained, the better. Look specifically for the condition of the tassels, because that's a good sign of insect infestation. No tassels means the farmer cut the buggy tassels away. Lots of healthy brown tassels on the corn, modulating into green-yellow silk...you're good to go!!!
An ear of corn with healthy brown tassels
2) Place a large amount of cold water in a large pot (size depends on the number of ears you're cooking...but make sure the ears will be just covered with water).
3) Partially shuck the ears, leaving behind about 2/3 leaves, silk and brown tassel.
4) Place ears in the pot, add a little salt (as for pasta cooking water), and place the pot over high heat.
Corn, leaves, silk and tassel cooking together
5) Cook until a good rolling boil develops, and the corn has a darker yellow or darker white color. I like to test one ear, just to make sure the corn is done. Average cooking time...7 or 8 minutes.
6) Now you have a little work. I transfer all of the ears to a clean sink. One by one, I put them under cold running tap water, using the flow to help me quickly pull away the now-cooked leaves, silk and tassel (which you leave behind in the sink).
7) When each corn is shucked, remove it rapidly from the cold water flow (it should still be very hot), and place it on paper towels (to absorb the extra water). From the paper towels, the corn goes right on to a buttered platter that will fit all of the corn you're cooking. For me, only butter and coarse salt are necessary!
I am sure this different cooking style will make your summer corn even more flavorful.
Let us say "amen" to that!
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