Recipes

Jazz up corn on the cob

Bacon-wrapped Corn with Chipotle Glaze. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS
Bacon-wrapped Corn with Chipotle Glaze. (Gretchen McKay/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette/TNS TNS

Lots of sweet butter and a sprinkle of salt. Maybe some freshly ground black pepper, if a shaker’s within easy reach on the picnic table.

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

Sweet and tender, corn on the cob lends itself to any number of toppings.

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.

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 five 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 (four to six inches from the heat, for 10 to 15 minutes), roasted in the oven (at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes), or cooked on the grill.

Grilling adds a hint of smoke and char to the vegetable. 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 the 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 five 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 no worries! The corn inside will stay moist.

If you like, you can get fancy and pull the husks off during the last five minutes of cooking, remove the silks and grill the ears until they’re lightly browned all over.

When choosing corn, look for the freshest cobs possible — preferably corn that’s been picked that morning; the longer it’s off the stalk, the more the corn is past its prime. The debate over whether to go with tiny kernels or plump ones is endless. Ditto with whether to choose yellow, white or bi-color butter and sugar corn (no matter what your parents told you when you were a kid, there’s no correlation between the color of corn and its sweetness). What is important is that the kernels, when you gently peel back the top of the cob or feel them through the husk, are closely spaced and even.

Fresh corn will keep for a day or so in the refrigerator, unshucked in a bag.

Bacon-wrapped corn with chipolte glaze

If they can make bacon ice cream, why not bacon-wrapped corn on the cob? It’s delicious! Be sure to secure the bacon strips with toothpicks; I didn’t and it fell off the cob when I turned it. For an even easier preparation, wrap the cobs in aluminum foil.

Serves: 4

4 corn ears, husked

4 bacon slices

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 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.

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