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All Things Corn

Several ears of both peeled and unpeeled corn in a metal bowl on a wooden floor.
Corn. Rob Bertholf via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

I'm so happy to report that we are up to our ears in local corn these days. It's hard to beat fresh picked corn with its plump, flavorful kernels. Everyone undoubtedly has their own favorite way of preparing it, but not many people know the secrets of preserving corn for off-season eating. Chef Jerry Pellegrino has collected a number of ways for you to take a crack at it.

The first thing to realize is that as soon as you pick it corn starts to go downhill. Those sweet sugars morph into tasteless starch very quickly. If you are buying corn at the store, take a good look at the kernels. If they are plump and glowing with a pearl-like luster then the corn is good to go. If they appear shrunken or dried out pass them by.

Saving fresh summer corn to enjoy through the winter is easy to do. We look to the folks at the University of Minnesota Ag Extension for a great explanation of how and why to do it here.

Cream of Basil Soup with Sweet Corn Relish

Ingredients

2 cups of raw cashews, soaked

2 cups filtered water

1 ½ packed cups of fresh basil leaves

2 large handfuls baby kale, or spinach

3 garlic cloves

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon ground pepper

Rinse the soaked cashews and discard soaking liquids.

In a blender pulse together, on low the cashews and water. Add in the basil, kale, garlic, salt and pepper and blend on low until totally smooth.

Transfer soup to an airtight container and refrigerator for at least one hour or until chilled all the way through.

Sweet Corn Relish

Ingredients

2 ears of corn

1 small sweet red pepper

1 small red onion

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon fresh basil chopped

Roast the corn, in their husks, in a 400°F oven for 15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool. Husk the corn and cut the kernels from the cob. Finely dice the onion and red pepper. Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl and season with salt and pepper.

Pan Roasted Eastern Shore Chicken Breast

Corn, Mushrooms, Bacon & Thyme, Pan Gravy

Ingredients

4 skin on airline chicken breasts

¼ cup olive oil

4 large garlic clove, cut in half

4 sprigs fresh thyme

4 oz. smoked bacon cut into ¼ inch dice

2 shallots, diced

2 ears Maryland sweet corn, roasted in the husk, shucked and cut from the cob

2 cups assorted wild mushroom, cleaned and tossed in 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

2 tablespoon butter

1 cup chicken stock

1 teaspoon corn starch dissolved in 2 tablespoons warm water

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Set a cast iron skillet or oven proof sauté pan over medium high heat and heat the oil until just shimmering. Season the skin side of the chicken breast liberally with salt and pepper. Carefully place the breast skin side down in the hot oil. Cook until the skin is golden brown. Place the skillet in a 350°F oven and roast the breast until cooked through, about 15 to 20 minutes. Spread the mushrooms out on a cookie sheet and roast in a 350°F oven until just brown on the edges, about 15 minutes. In a large skillet set over medium heat, cook the bacon until a lot of the fat has rendered and the bacon is brown on the edges. Add the butter and melt until just foaming. Add the shallot and cook until soft and translucent. Add the cooked mushrooms, corn and fresh thyme and cook for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the chicken from the oven and place the breast, skin side up, on a clean plate. Remove and thyme stems, leaving any leaves that have fallen off and the garlic from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Add the chicken stock and deglaze the pan over medium heat, scraping hard to get all of the caramelized pieces off of the bottom. Add the corn starch slurry and bring to a boil to thicken. Divide the corn mixture among four warm plates, placing it in a pile in the center of each. Place a chicken breast, skin side up on each of the corn piles and spoon on the gravy.

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.