Food & Drink

Have you wrapped your corn with . . . bacon?

Mexican-style corn is brushed with a mayonnaise/sriracha mix.
Mexican-style corn is brushed with a mayonnaise/sriracha mix. Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Lots of sweet butter and a sprinkle, or two, of salt. Maybe some freshly ground black pepper, if a shaker’s within easy reach. That’s how most of us enjoy fresh-picked corn on the cob.

It’s hard to go wrong with tradition, but simple isn’t necessarily better when it comes to summer’s hallmark vegetable.

Mexican-style corn, topped with spicy sriracha- or chipotle-flavored mayonnaise and crumbly cotija cheese, is particularly hot right now, showing up in any number of this season’s grilling cookbooks.

That’s just the start. Corn can be made even tastier when you brush it with a tangy basil vinaigrette and dust it with salty Parmigiano-Reggiano, or slather it with a homemade herb butter. How about wrapping it in thick slices of bacon before you throw it on the grill? While it’s cooking, brush it with a peppery chipotle-honey glaze.

Local corn is available in piles right now, so why not jazz it up a bit with color, flavor and texture after you’ve tired of plain and simple cobs?

The traditional method of cooking corn on the cob, after it is husked and the silky threads pulled away from the kernels, is to boil it: Drop the corn into a large pot filled with boiling salted water, cover, let the water return to a boil, and then turn off the heat and keep the pot covered. After about 5 minutes, remove what you'll eat during a first round; remaining corn can be kept warm in the water for another 10 minutes or so. But it also can be broiled (4 to 6 inches from the heat, for 10 to 15 minutes), roasted (350 degrees for about 20 minutes), or grilled.

Grilling adds a hint of smoke and char. Throw the naked cobs over a hot fire and grill them, turning occasionally, until the kernels are tender and charred, about 10 minutes total. Or wrap ears in aluminum foil, with or without butter or oil inside, and cook over a hot grate or directly on hot coals, until is done, about 15 to 20 minutes.

My favorite way to grill corn is the easiest way, in the husk. Soak unshucked ears in water to cover for at least 15 to 20 minutes, remove corn from water and shake off excess. Place corn on the hot grill grates (heat should be medium-high), close cover and grill for 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes or so until the corn is tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Pull the husks back before serving (the silks will come right off). The husks will get black, but the corn inside will stay moist.

Fresh corn will keep for a day or so in the refrigerator, unshucked in a bag. But really, who can wait that long?

Basil-Parmesan Corn

Adapted from whatsgabycooking.com.

1 small shallot, roughly chopped

2 cups tightly packed fresh basil leaves, stems removed (about 4 ounces)

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

Freshly ground black pepper

8 ears fresh corn

Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Place shallots, basil, garlic, pepper flakes, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper in a blender and blend for 1 minute, until very smooth. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 3 days.

Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to high heat. Pull the corn husks down and keep on to use for holding the corn later. Grill the corn over high heat until it starts to char. Remove from grill.

Using a pastry brush, brush some of the basil vinaigrette onto the corn and then heavily sprinkle with the grated cheese. Serve immediately.

Yield: 8 servings.

Grilled Corn With Herb Butter

Adapted from “Williams-Sonoma Grill School” by Andrew Schloss and David Joachim (Weldon Owen, 2016). Compound (flavored) butters are ridiculously easy to make. Substitute any fresh herbs, such as rosemary, sage and thyme, to make 1 cup.

8 ears corn

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/4 cup chopped fresh chervil

1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon

1/4 cup chopped fresh chives

1 small clove garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Prepare butter: In bowl using a fork, mix together butter, herbs, garlic, anchovy paste, salt and pepper. Transfer to a sheet of plastic wrap and use a rubber spatula and the plastic wrap to shape the butter into a log about 1 1/2 inches across. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Store in refrigerator up to 1 week or freeze for several months.

Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high. If you plan to grill the corn naked (out of the husk), peel back the husk and remove the silks. Keep the peeled-back husk on the cob, using it as a handle. Lube the corn with a little oil or butter. If you slip some foil under the husks during grilling, you will prevent them from burning.

If you prefer to grill the corn in the husk, simply toss the ears of corn over a medium-high fire – husk, silks and all.

Place corn on hot grill and cook. For unhusked corn, grill corn 20 minutes, turning every 5 minutes.

Serve corn with herbed butter.

Yield: 8 servings.

Mexican-Style Elote

Adjust the level of spiciness by adding more, or less, sriracha. If you can’t find cotija cheese, substitute Parmesan.

8 ears corn, husked

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons sriracha, or more to taste

1 lime, divided

Salt and cayenne pepper, to taste

Crumbled cotija cheese

Red pepper flakes, chopped green onion and chopped cilantro (optional)

Prepare corn: Preheat an indoor or outdoor grill to high heat. Pull the husk down and keep it on to use for holding the corn later. Brush grill grate and coat with oil.

Combine mayonnaise, sriracha and juice of 1/2 lime in a bowl. (Cut the remaining lime half into wedges for serving.) Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Put corn on grate and cook, turning every 5 minutes or so, until it starts to char. Remove from grill.

Drizzle corn with sriracha aioli, then sprinkle with crumbled cotija cheese, red pepper flakes, green onions and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges.

Yield: 8 servings.

Bacon-Wrapped Corn With Chipotle Glaze

From onionringsandthings.com. Be sure to secure the bacon strips with toothpicks. For even easier preparation, wrap the cobs in aluminum foil.

4 ears of corn, husked

4 slices thick-cut bacon

1/4 cup canned chipotle peppers

1/4 cup honey

1/4 cup butter, melted

Going from one end to the other, wrap bacon around each ear of corn and secure with toothpicks. Set aside.

In a food processor or blender, pulse chipotle peppers until smooth. In a bowl, combine pureed peppers, honey and butter.

Spray grates of grill with cooking spray and set over medium-hot coals. Liberally brush bacon-wrapped corn with chipotle-honey glaze and arrange on grill. Grill corn, turning every 2 to 3 minutes and basting regularly with glaze, for about 20 to 25 minutes or until corn is cooked and bacon is crisp. (Watch carefully and turn often, so the honey doesn’t burn.)

Yield: 4 servings.

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