Creamed corn doesn’t need any help.
A perfectly simple dish of just two ingredients – corn and cream – simmered down into something rich, complex and just sweet enough, creamed corn asks for nothing else, not even salt and pepper.
That said, as much as I adore its inherent minimalism, there are times when I cannot resist throwing something else into the pan.
Once, I tried Gorgonzola, and liked what I got. Ever since, a handful of crumbled or grated cheese has become a regular addition when I want something tangy to offset the sweetness of the kernels.
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This summer, I took my cheesy creamed corn even further, and turned that side dish into a meal by using it as a base for sautéed shrimp.
The combination is an inauthentic take on shrimp and grits. Instead of dried, ground corn, I substituted creamed corn with feta. The fresh corn is lighter than its porridgelike counterpart, and sweeter, too. And the feta vaguely recalls the grated cheddar that’s often added to the grits pot.
You want extra-large shrimp; 12-16 to a pound is about right. Then take care not to overcook them. Just after they start turning pink all over, pull the pan off the stove and let the residual heat finish the cooking process. They should be succulent and not at all shriveled.
Shrimp With Creamed Corn and Feta
Yield: 4 servings; time: 40 minutes
4 cups corn kernels (from 6 to 7 ears corn)
1 1/2 pounds extra-large peeled shrimp (12-16 a pound)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, more to taste
3 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, more for serving
Black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 small red onions, diced
1 large poblano chili or green bell pepper, diced
2 large ripe tomatoes, diced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Large dash of Worcestershire sauce
Dash of hot sauce, preferably Tabasco
Cilantro leaves, for serving
Basil leaves, for serving
1. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with salt and garlic and let rest in the refrigerator until needed (up to 2 hours).
2. In a medium saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter with the cream over medium heat. Add corn, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring once or twice, until the corn is very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. If all the moisture evaporates before the corn is soft, add a few teaspoons water to the pan.
3. Using an immersion blender or regular blender, blend corn mixture until you get a chunky purée. Mix in feta, black pepper and salt to taste. Cover and keep warm until needed.
4. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and pepper and sauté until pale golden and soft, 7 minutes. Add tomatoes, a large pinch of salt, and a tablespoon or two of water if the pan looks dry, and sauté until the tomatoes break down and turn saucelike, about 8 minutes.
5. Add shrimp, lemon juice and Worcestershire and hot sauces. Sauté until the shrimp are pink and cooked through, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir remaining butter into pan and add more salt, if needed.
6. Serve corn topped with shrimp and plenty of crumbled feta. Garnish with cilantro and basil.