There are few foods as simple, delicious and complete as fresh seasonal corn on the cob. When it's really fresh, I'll even eat it raw. No boiling, no butter, no salt. It's perfectly sweet and tender right off the stalk.
Still, even perfection can get boring, and I recently began wondering what else I could do with fresh corn. I thought back to my days as the host of the Food Network's "Cooking Live," when one of my guest chefs whipped up some corn soup and thickened it with pureed corn.
Of course, I'd known that any pureed vegetable will thicken a stew or soup. But corn has a secret ingredient — Duh! — cornstarch. I was astonished by the creaminess and thickness of my guest's soup.
This recipe was inspired by that soup. Creamed corn is thus named because it usually depends on cream for its creaminess. That's a problem for me for a couple of reasons. The cream not only makes the dish too rich, it also tends to mask the flavour of the corn itself.
So I took a tip from my chef friend and used pureed corn to achieve a silky richness without any additional fat. Caramelized onions add great depth of flavour, while the chili's heat and lime juice's acidity balance the sweetness of the corn.
Don't hesitate to finish the dish with just about any herb in the garden these days. Corn plays nicely with almost all of them.
SPICY "CREAMED" CORN
Start to finish: 30 minutes
10 to 12 ears fresh corn, husked
3/4 cup chicken broth, vegetable broth or water, divided
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil or olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped (about 1 cup)
1 serrano chili, seeds and ribs discarded if desired, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice or lemon juice, to taste
1 tablespoon shredded fresh basil or chopped fresh cilantro
Ground black pepper
Carefully cut the kernels off the ears of corn. To do this, one at a time stand each ear on its wide end and use a serrated knife to saw down the length of the cob. You should have about 6 cups of kernels.
In a blender, combine 1 cup of the kernels and 1/2 cup of the broth. Puree until smooth. Set aside.
In a large skillet over medium, heat the oil. Add the onion and a pinch of salt, reduce the heat to moderately low and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the remaining corn kernels and another pinch of salt. Saute for 3 minutes. Add the chili and pureed corn, then bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes.
Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of chicken broth, the lime juice and basil. Season with salt and pepper, then simmer for another minute.
Nutrition information per serving (values are rounded to the nearest whole number): 220 calories; 80 calories from fat (36 per cent of total calories); 9 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 36 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 4 g fiber; 150 mg sodium.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Sara Moulton was executive chef at Gourmet magazine for nearly 25 years, and spent a decade hosting several Food Network shows. She currently stars in public television's "Sara's Weeknight Meals" and has written three cookbooks, including "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners."