Thursday, July 25, 2013

C3: Corn to the Third Power

I’m a eating a hot meal for the first time in almost two weeks—at least, the first time cooked in my own cottage kitchen, which has been an oven in and of itself.  It’s gone from HHH—the abbreviation every New Englander knows, Hazy, Hot, and Humid—to TDCWFJ—that’s my own abbreviation for too damned cold and wet for July. Of course, it’s only one day, and I do not expect—are you listening, weather gods?—it to last. But I am already wishing for the heat back. Except for the fact that I was able to turn the real oven on today.

I would like to report that I was baking a cherry pie with, finally, the Montmorencies. But I totally missed them. For the first time in…well, forever!  It was that perfect storm of not being here on the ONE day when they were picked. But I don’t think I really missed much. The fruit lady said they were fermented. Cherry wine, anyone?  They had never seen it before.  Waited and waited to pick them because they were not ready, and then when they were…they were already gone. A strange year.

But the blueberries are in. And you can be sure there is a pie in our future.  But for today, in the cold, when I have on a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt for god’s sake, and just pulled out a pair of socks, I kid you not (note that I have them with me: it’s New England, after all), I turned to the comfort of corn.

While I’m still waiting for my favorite varieties, Temptation and Lancelot, to appear, the corn is good, and this was a variety I have never seen at Walker’s or really anywhere before, Illini. I bought a few ears, and was planning to cut it off the cob (which I did) and sauté it (which I didn’t), but ended up going out with a friend and having—gasp—a bowl of cut corn more than an hour old. That’s tantamount to sin in Yankee religion.

So I decided to make some cornbread. Even though I am, thanks to the wonderful Rachel of the equally wonderful and evocative Lawn Tea blog, an honorary G.R.I.T.S. member (and let us never forget that I did serve three years hard time in Nashville), I rarely make cornbread.  I don’t like the dry, crumbly sort,  the kind that you can slather to death with butter and still choke on on the way down. I imagine it’s really good for stuffing a bird, able to suck up all those juices without totally falling apart. But then, I don’t stuff my birds—we do dressing, baked on the side.  And I don’t like the sweet sort, the yellow, sugary stuff that is the staple of middling restaurants. I don’t like the over-stuffed sort, much as I don’t like pizza with tons of toppings, or ice cream with, god forbid, candy and cookies and nuts and swirls and…please stop!  Hold the chiles, the cheese, the bacon: don’t you know that cornbread, like pizza and ice cream, should be pure?

I am no corn bread maven. But a lot of corn, in its various forms, makes for a good corn bread. Hence the name.  Since I don’t like it dry, I make it moist. And since I don’t like it sweet, I make it…just sweet enough to balance the acid edge.  It can be eaten plain, without butter (enough fat in it). It stands on its own for breakfast. And that, for me, is the ultimate test.

C3 Cornbread

This will sit nicely on the counter for a few days with little damage. What more could you want? As with all moist foods, the microwave at low temp does a nice job of reheating, but it scarcely needs it.  The yellow cornflour gives a  yellow color when you use white cornmeal; white cornflour can also be used. Serves 12 generously.

2 c a-p flour
½ c stoneground yellow cornflour (I use Bob’s Red Mill, or a noname white version from the supermarkets          here)
1 c stoneground white or yellow cornmeal (I use RI jonnycakemeal)
2 tea baking powder
1 tea baking soda
1 tea salt
3 T brown sugar
2 T pure maple syrup
½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick), melted
2 large brown eggs
¾ best sour cream
1 cup whole milk
Cut kernels from 2 ears of fresh corn (about 1 cup)
Additional maple syrup for brushing top (optional)

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter a 13x9” baking pan, preferably a nice one for serving, and set aside.

Mix the flours, cornmeal, baking powder, soda, and salt together in a large bowl. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the melted butter, cooled a little, with the sugar and syrup. Whisk in the eggs, then the sour cream, then the milk. Fold into the dry ingredients just until the flour disappears, as for a biscuit. Fold in the corn kernels, which you have cut off and scraped a little from their cobs (freezing the cobs for corn stock), until just distributed. Scoop into the prepared pan, and spread around with the back of a wooden spoon.

Bake for 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven (mine in LC is HOT!), until lightly browned all over, a little more so on the edges, which may just begin to pull away. The top should spring back to the touch, and you can always stick a skewer in to make sure it is cooked through.  Remove to a rack to cool, and brush lightly with maple syrup if you wish.


Anonymous said...

We were not offered any leftovers when we visited the cottage.....sad ya, Tim n Tara!

Jane said...

Ha! You must come for a longer stay, and have a fresh meal! Zucchini bread was good, thanks!