So I had a totally different recipe to share with you for my regular Monday post. But then, it just so happens that I was sitting at home on Saturday night (Boo. Life is not always exciting.) with a splitting migrane (Double Boo. Pain is never fun.) and flipping through the copy of Thomas Keller's Ad Hoc at Home that I had just picked up from the library (Yay! Cookbooks are exciting and always fun!). This cookbook is just filled to the brim with amazing recipes, but when I happened upon this creamed corn I knew with utter certainty that I needed to temporarily abandon those earlier plans and share this recipe with you instead. I hadn't even made it yet, but I just knew that it would be a winner and that I would be typing this post today to tell you about it.
I think I felt so certain for three main reasons. First, I have been feeling a little low on inspiration lately, and for whatever reason (probably because Thomas Keller is amazing?), reading through Ad Hoc at Home chased away all of those lackluster feelings. Second, the growing season for sweet corn has literally hit its own "sweet spot" which makes the taste simple and sublime. Plus, corn seems to be the quintessential late-summer vegetable that we all eat in order to take a bite of those last rays of summer sunshine. And don't let me forget, thirdly, I was so certain that I would share this recipe with you because it is from Thomas Keller. And can anyone argue that is food is wonderful?
Although I haven't fully absorbed all there is to take in from Ad Hoc at Home, one thing I can say is that it definitely feels like you really learning the recipes from Thomas himself. Unlike in most other cookbooks where there are glossy photos of arranged food and the occasional step-by-step instruction on technique (though this book also has loads of those), Thomas's face and hands seem to be all over this book. And he is not just giving you stern looks and serious posed faces, but rather, images of real concentration as he makes his own mozzarella, or a sly smile when he tells you 'I really do love to spoon.' (And just to be clear, all we can be sure about is that he loves to use large kitchen spoons to taste as he cooks. Lets not get carried away here.) In the foreword and all throughout the book, it also feels like you really hear his 'voice' when he is telling you about the idiosyncrasies of his kitchen preferences or when he is explaining the specifics of recipe ingredients. So far, it makes me feel like I might be spending a little quality time with Thomas Keller, and I like that. I will tell you more about what I think of Ad Hoc at Home after I test out a few more recipes, but for now... back to the corn!
In his book Thomas suggests that as part of his family-style cooking he likes to pull out vegetables and starches and serve them as stand-alone sides, and I couldn't agree more. When you have fresh, in-season corn that is so perfectly sweet you wish summer could be everyday of the year... then yes, that corn can stand perfectly on its own two little feet and wow you as a side dish. And if we throw in a little (ok, it is a lot) butter and cream to give that corn a base to stand on, well, I don't think anyone would complain about that. And I had no idea the surprise I was in for when I discovered just how perfectly that little bit of lime juice and lime zest works in this recipe.
This sweet creamed corn was really truly wonderful. Not the kind of wonderful that bowls you over with the first bite, but rather, the sort of wonderful that just hums through your body radiating warmth and comfort. At its root, isn't that really what this dish is: Comfort food? This corn would pair equally well with a family dinner of pork or shellfish, or as Thomas suggests, his Buttermilk Fried Chicken. Maybe that is the recipe I should try out next!
Anyway you look at it, this is a dish that you or your family would love. So indulge yourself and enjoy those last days of summer sunshine and sweet corn.
Thomas Keller's Sweet Creamed Corn
Adapted (to include even more butter and cream) from Ad Hoc at Home
(This is about 3 servings, I halved the recipe)
3 ears of in-season, fresh sweet corn (yellow or white)
2 tablespoons butter (original recipe would have been 1 1/2 tbsps)
Juice from 1/2 lime
Zest from 1/2 lime
1/2 cup heavy cream
Small pinch of cayenne pepper (or if we are measuring, 1/2 of 1/8 teaspoon)
1 tablespoon minced chives
Salt to taste
Remove the husks and as much of the silks from the corn as possible, and prepare a large bowl filled with water. Hold the each corn upright, with the bottom of the cob flat on a cutting board, and use a large chef's knife to slice vertically down down the cob towards the cutting board to remove all the kernels. Reserve the cobs. **Place the kernels in the bowl of water and swish around with your hands; some of the excess silks will get stuck on your hands, and then just run your hands under water to remove the silks. Repeat this until you feel you have removed as much of the silks as possible. Drain the corn, and transfer it to a medium bowl. Use the back of a knife (non sharp side) to scrape the reserved corn cobs to collect any last kernels and remaining corn 'milk' into the medium bowl.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat, then add the corn and lime juice, stirring to combine well. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid is absorbed by the corn, about 15 minutes. Add the cream, lime zest, and cayenne pepper, and cook for another 6-8 minutes, stirring, until the corn has absorbed the cream. Add the minced chives, and salt to taste. Stir well and serve immediately.
**This is part of what Thomas refers to as "Lightbulb Moments" in his book. Next to particular recipes, he lists those ah-ha! examples of times when he discovered more simple or effective ways of accomplishing tasks. In this particular recipe, he finds that this method of soaking the kernels in water to remove the extra silks is the best he has found. It worked alright for me, but I was still picking out plenty of silks after swishing my hands around for awhile. I may have perfectionist tendencies, so I painstakingly picked through to remove them all. Do whatever you like; if a little silks here and there doesn't bother you or you don't have irrational tendencies like I do, you can completely skip this washing step.