Corn on the grill. It sounds like a simple pleasure.
But if you’re a recipe follower like me, you have spent entire summer afternoons on preparatory procedures: Finding a tub large enough to soak a dozen ears in cold water. Picking out all the corn silk — while somehow keeping the green husks attached. Maybe blanching the cobs in milk, because why not? (Paging Sam Sifton and Bobby Flay.) And that’s all before you light the grill.
Life is too short. At the beginning of this year’s season, I made a last-minute decision to throw the corn I’d just shucked on the (well-oiled) grill, letting the steak I’d just cooked rest. I closed the lid, listened for a faint sizzle, and got on with dinner, turning the cobs occasionally. When it was time to sit down, the corn was ready, toasty brown all over, deliciously blackened in spots, bursting with fresh corn taste.
After some R&D, I learned that this technique works perfectly on really fresh corn that is still sweet and juicy. (As soon as corn is cut off the stalk, those sugars start to convert into starch, and starch turns tough in the dry heat of a grill.) Buying corn isn’t about seeking out particular cultivars as much as it is about freshness. For the juiciest corn, choose ears that are heavy for their size, with tightly wrapped leaves, and not visibly dried out at either end.
If you can find just-picked corn today, that’s your one-ingredient, no-recipe recipe for the week — and what you should make this weekend.
Grilled corn is great, of course, with grilled meat like Yewande Komolafe’s beef suya or these red chile-bathed skewers from David Tanis. Or serve it as a high-summer vegetarian dinner with cherry tomatoes and Lidey Heuck’s new chickpea salad, a dead ringer for picnic classics like potato and macaroni salad, but more filling and brightened with scallions and yogurt.
If not, we’ve still got a lot of corn recipes for you. This one, from the chef Clare De Boer, is called a sformato, but it’s an awful lot like what we called corn pudding when I was growing up: fresh kernels bound in a puffy, dairy-rich almost-soufflé. There’s a Mark Bittman corn salad with tomatoes, feta and mint that I’ve had for lunch more times than I can count: Just add crusty bread, maybe some smoked fish or cured meat. And even if all you have is frozen corn, this panful of caramelized corn with butter and shallots will make the whole house smell great. It may even make you and yours look forward to yet another dinner at home.
We are all about things to look forward to at NYT Cooking. (Like a bumper crop of fall cookbooks, coming in soon.) If you haven’t read our story about dueling Instagram diet queens, you also have that to look forward to. It’s bonkers.
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And a note: On Wednesday, I said Sam would be back after Labor Day. He’ll actually be back just before, on Sunday, Sept. 6.