Fire up the grill
BY CHEF TOM YATES
As restrictions loosen and we adjust to our ever changing new normal, it’s time to climb out of our bunkers for some fresh air, even if we don’t go any farther than our own backyards. And there’s no better air than sweet smoky barbecued air. It’s grilling season. Barbecue season. Corn season.
Few things set my heart aflutter more than the first sight of roadside corn stands spilling over with fresh corn or when the first fresh ears hit the Lexington farmers markets. Corn season is summer slathered in butter.
Typically, when corn starts rolling in, I channel my grandmother and keep things simple. Boiled with butter, fried in bacon fat, or creamed with scraped-from-the-cob milk juices are my go to preps. Simple. Pure. Fabulous. Eventually, I branch out into crazy land with deep fried corn on the cob, pureed fresh corn grits, corn puddings, and spoon breads. That said, I will forever be enamored with grilled corn. It hits every note. Smoky. Sweet. Crunchy. Soft.
So, go ahead, fire up the grill. Just remember, the sides are key. They’re the reason for the season. And while fresh vegetables and salads keep things civilized, grilled summer corn bridges the gap between beauty and brawn.
Blistered Corn Fritters
Unlike dense corn cakes flecked with corn, these airy cakes are filled with smoky grilled corn lightly bound in batter and are more fritter than cake. Teetering on the edge of precious, they can masquerade as delicate finger food. Or they can be swiped through sticky barbecue drippings to keep it real. After all, that’s what summer’s all about.
After pulling the husks away from the cobs for easier handling, I scrubbed the silks from the ears, brushed the ears with vegetable oil, slid them onto a hot grill, turned them from time to time until they started to blister, and pulled them from the grill. When they were cool enough to handle, I sliced the corn from the cobs.
While the grill was still hot, I tossed a few Stonehedge green onions over the fire to wilt and char before pulling them off and slicing them into whisper thin ribbons.
I use one basic cornbread recipe for everything. It works with any kind of cornmeal and never fails. It’s great for skillet cornbread, corn muffins, corn cakes, hush puppies, and old fashioned cornbread salad.
After sifting 1 cup Weisenberger Mill all purpose flour and 2 tablespoons baking powder into a mixing bowl, I added 1 cup Weienberger Mill plain yellow cornmeal, 4 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons vegetable oil, 2/3 cups milk (or buttermilk), and 2 beaten eggs. I folded 1 1/2 cups of the reserved grilled corn into the batter, and gently mixed the batter until combined before setting it aside for 10 minutes to rest.
Working over a medium flame, I brought 1/4 cup vegetable oil to the edge of smoking in a large cast iron skillet. When the oil sizzled around the end of a wooden spoon ( a grandmother trick), I spooned 1/4 cups batter into the oil, spacing the fritters about three inches apart. When the batter settled into the hot oil and started to set, I twirled a few of the reserved grilled green onions over the cakes before carefully flipping them over and gently patting them down. As each batch crisped up and browned on both sides, I pulled the skillet from the flame and set them aside. After brushing the tops with a smidgen of melted butter, I dusted them with sea salt, and finished each corn fritter with a puckery kiss of chow chow.
Suspended in the crisped batter, the corn popped with a smoky sweetness that played off the spiced sweet/tart crunch of the chilled chow chow.
Blistered corn fritters. Get your grill on.
This article also appears on page 28 of the Summer 2020 print edition of Hamburg Journal.
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