July 09, 2006

Paper Chef #19 - Adventures with Creamed Corn

8 ears of fresh Brentwood corn.

a handful of pine nuts.

a couple tablespooons of coriander seed.

a pantry full of ingredients, internet access and a little creativity.

Welcome to the story of our adventures with Coriander-Scented Coconut Cream Corn with Pine Nuts, my contribution to Paper Chef #19

The first challenge was how to incorporate the fourth ingredient: “Independence.” An American child of immigrant ancestors, I think what links those of us who call the United States home is a desire to build a better life in a new land. British, Irish and Spanish, Italian, German and Polish, Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese, Indian, Pakistani and Persian, people come from disparate geographies and cultures seeking the “independence” that comes with a fresh start, a new life. So I chose to incorporate independence by choosing independent sources for as many of my ingredients as possible.

Corn grown by family farmers in neighboring Brentwood. Onions grown by another family in Stockton. Families I’ve gotten to know at my community’s farmer’s market.

Butter from the Strauss dairy in Marin County.

Spices from Penzeys and The San Francisco Herb Company again family-run establishments.

The second challenge was deciding on a direction. There are a lot of things you can do with corn as a base ingredient – especially this time of year. I considered a risotto; a nod to my paternal heritage. Or a summer salad featuring honey-roasted corn and pine nuts. After much thought, I finally decided on a quintessential American classic: Creamed Corn.

I used as my inspiration Alton Brown’s recipe for Better than Grannie's Creamed Corn. And tweaked it a bit to fit my ingredients and my desire to create a cross-cultural “melting pot” – borrowing the best from around the world to contribute to something American at its base but oh-so-much-more.

The Ingredients:

6 ears fresh corn
½ medium onion, diced
1 tablespoon butter
1 stalk lemongrass, halved and smashed
2-3 tablespoons coriander seed, toasted and crushed
2 1-inch pieces gingerroot, peeled
2-3 tablespoons cumin seed, toasted and crushed
1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Handful of pine nuts, toasted
(most measurements are estimates)

The Process:

As we often do on the weekends, John and I approached this one as a team effort.

He followed AB’s instructions for shucking the corn – first cutting off the kernels using the sharp edge of the knife, then using the dull edge to abrade the cob and release the corn’s “milk” to the mix. Harder than it sounds, this was easily one of the most time-consuming aspects of the recipe.

Meanwhile, I steeped the lemongrass, gingerroot, cumin and coriander in the coconut milk at medium low heat, infusing the milk with Indian/Asian flavor.

We melted the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan and sweated the onions until they were translucent. We added the corn and sautéed for a few minutes before adding the sugar, the turmeric, and a couple of tablespoons of non-steeped leftover coconut milk for moisture.

John tended the corn, stirring to prevent sticking/burning, while I strained the steeped coconut milk. We added the coconut milk to the corn, reduce the heat, and John kept stirring while I turned to toasting the pine nuts.

Finally, we removed everything from the heat and stirred the nuts into the corn. Photographed the final result and dished it up to try.

The Result:

Not half bad. We both agree this is a recipe we want to play with. The flavors provided by the infused coconut mulk came through, but they were very subtle. I didn't time it, but I suspect it steeped about 20 minutes. Perhaps toasting the spices and steeping the coconut milk a bit longer will lead to a slightly stronger infusion of flavors. But for our first paper chef attempt, we’re pretty pleased with the outcome.

One final thought: I’m glad I didn’t look at the other contributions before finalizing my own. Corn Pudding as a dessert course. A Corn Soup with a coriander-pesto crouton. And Corn Donuts". Wow. Our meager contribution doesn't seem worthy. But I'm honored to have participated with the rest of you and look forward to trying *your* recipes.


Jennifer said...

I'm looking forward to your recipe. I couldn't for the life of me think of something fun to make with those ingredients. I needed more time!

peabody said...

Yes, I'm glsd I didn't look at the corn donuts or else I would not have entered.
I think your flavors are really interesting.

Culinarily Curious said...

Following up -- we served the leftover corn tonight paired with BBQ tri-tip and green beans in a bacon-balsamic vinaigrette. The spice infusion was much more pronounced tonight -- this dish definitely benefits from a day or two of refrigeration.

Jennifer -- I can relate; this is my first foray into the Paper Chef the ingredients were challenging and the 'competition' intimidating. But the experience was fun and I'll definitely do it again.

Peabody -- Thanks for the vote of confidence. Both the donuts and your soup are on my to-try list.

Bron said...

Yum! I love creamed corn, unfortunately I'll have to a few more months yet to see fresh corn down here again. Thank you so very much for your lovely comments on my donuts.

elle said...

being from the south i really love creamed corn but living in CA, your version sounds more interesting.