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Meet Maryland Corn

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Thangaraj Kumaravel via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
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One of the great traditions of summer in Maryland is sweet corn. Although our legendary Silver Queen corn is more or less just a memory, there are a lot of other varieties to attract our attention. And luckily for us, Chef Jerry Pellegrino has made a bit of a study of this warm weather mainstay.

 

 

Broadly speaking the corn of the Eastern Shore is white and is meant for human consumption. Here on the Western Shore, the corn is mostly yellow, with much of it meant to feed animals. 

 

Silver Queen corn was a distinct variety that flourished in the 20th century. But farmers are rarely content to stay put, even with a winner like Silver Queen. 

 

Better, more productive varieties were created that eventually left Silver Queen in the dust. Today you'll find Argent and Silver King in its place. Very similar in appearance, and just as tasty.

 

On the Western Shore we have a recent addition to the mix: hybrid varieties called, in general, "bicolor" corn. These cobs have big kernels, as opposed to the more dainty kernels in the white varieties, plus plenty of sugar. They are a joy to eat.

 

Here are some of Jerry's ideas about enjoying corn, both for now and for later.

 

 

Saving Corn for the Winter: There are three good ways to freeze corn and, if you have the room, you’ll want to have come of each available. 

Cut off the cob raw – this is an amazingly simple way to freeze corn. It works well for cooked dishes such as corn chowder, corn and penne, etc.

Cooked and then cut off the cob – this will take a little more time but it is worth it if you want to use your frozen corn in salsas, salads or any other dish where you’d have to use cooked corn. I’ll shuck the corn and drop the ears in a pot of boiling water for 2 to 4 minutes. Remove the corn and drop it in an ice bath. Once it is cool you can cut off the corn and freeze it.

Whole ears of unblanched corn – obviously, the simplest way to freeze corn…just shuck and freeze. The result is good but not great and the cob takes up a lot of room in the freezer but if you want to have corn on the cob in January it works well enough. I drop the frozen ears of corn in a pot of boiling water for 4 minutes and serve them hot with Old Bay and butter. 

 

Corn and Crab Chowder

 

Ingredients

 

6 bacon slices

2 celery ribs, diced

1 medium-size green bell pepper, diced

1 medium onion, diced

1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced

1 (32-oz.) container crab stock or clam broth

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 cups fresh corn kernels (6 ears)

1 pound fresh lump crabmeat, drained and picked

1 cup whipping cream

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

 

Oyster crackers for garnish

 

Cook bacon in a Dutch oven over medium heat 8 to 10 minutes or until crisp; remove bacon, and drain on paper towels, reserving 2 Tbsp. drippings in Dutch oven. Crumble bacon. Sauté celery, both peppers and the onion in the bacon fat for 5 to 6 minutes or until tender. Whisk together broth and flour until smooth. Add to celery mixture. Stir in corn. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes. Gently stir in crabmeat, parsley and season with salt and pepper; cook 4 to 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Serve warm with crumbled bacon and oyster crackers. 

 

Corn Gratin

 

Ingredients

 

4 cups frozen corn kernels

12 oz heavy whipping cream

1 tablespoon sugar

2 tablespoons salted butter

2 tablespoons

4 tablespoons parmesan cheese

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

 

In a medium, heavy pot, combine corn, cream and sugar. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce to simmer. Simmer 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover and turn heat off. In a separate pan, melt butter and stir in the flour; whisk or stir constantly until it forms a roux (smooth, non-lumpy, yet thick mixture.) Whisk the roux into the pot of corn. Mix well to combine. Simmer until the mixture thickens. About 5 minutes. Transfer corn mixture to a mid-sized casserole dish. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese evenly over the top. Set under the broiler and broil just until cheese is nicely browned and bubbling.

 

Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.