Aside, maybe, from icy wedges of watermelon, what better evokes summer than corn on the cob? No matter how you eat it–in rings? typewriter-style? a syncretic spiral?– fresh corn seems to me the absolute sunny sweet essence of summer. I remember waiting impatiently for the first corn to appear at Merrick’s farm stand on Main Street each summer.
And, when it finally arrived, the corn always seemed worth both the wait and the several applications of turkey crap the farmer applied to his fields each spring. Rolling off the bus in the morning–school was between the turkey farm and the corn fields–and getting a faceful of that was NOT pleasant. (In retrospect, WTF, this was suburban Massachusetts in the early 1990s, not Little House on the Prairie…)
Anyway, corn. It’s lovely, and (surprisingly) I generally like it unadorned–just steamed ever so quickly to stop the sugars from turning to starch. No butter, no salt, just corn. Yum. I was, however, inspired to make a little chipotle butter to accompany our 4th of July corn, and I’m really glad I did. The butter was smoky, spicy, salty, and rich–all things that the corn, delicious as it is, was not.
Compound butters are one of those haute Frenchy secret weapon things that really shouldn’t be secret. The formula is simple: soften butter, mix in some flavorful stuff, and chill into a log shape. Boom. As long as you don’t introduce too much salt or liquid to the mix, you can stir in whatever you want. Here, I was looking for a vaguely south-of-the-border zing, but let your menu guide your choices.
I also charred the corn a bit over the stove (no grill for us…) just before serving. If you DO have a grill, by all means grill your corn. It’s very nice with the butter, and you probably won’t singe off half your arm hair in the process. *ahem*
Sweet Corn with Chipotle Butter
8 ears sweet corn
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 chipotle in adobo
1 tbs finely minced shallot
1 tsp Mexican oregano
3/4 tsp fine salt
1tsp finely ground black pepper
Shuck and de-silk the corn. Steam for 2-3 minutes. Remove from pot to cool and dry off. (Or just grill it.) Meanwhile, put the butter into a medium bowl and moosh with a fork till nicely softened. Drain the chipotle well, mince in up with the shallot–as fine as possible–and mix it all into the butter with the other seasonings. Scrape onto a sheet of plastic wrap and roll into a log. Chill to set and let the flavors develop–overnight would be good, and a little longer even better.
Just prior to serving, take your cooled steamed corn, break the cobs in half, and char lightly over an open flame. Once all the corn has a bit of color, serve immediately with pats of the chipotle butter.