It’s not summer for me unless I’ve had corn on the cob. Not that it’s my favorite food or anything — I don’t eat a lot of it — it’s just one of those tastes of summer and has been pretty much forever. It also gives me a chance to eat lots of butter and salt. And it’s in season now all over North America.
Garrison Keillor famously said the best way to cook corn was to wait until the water was boiling before you ran out to pick it. You can’t get much more local than that. It’s true that sweet corn, the kind humans usually eat, begins to lose its sweetness as soon as it’s picked. Most of us don’t have corn growing just outside our kitchens, however, and have to settle for something from someone else’s farm, hopefully not too far away.
Boiling and steaming are the classic ways to cook corn. They’re quick and can be done on top of the stove, or even in the microwave. But there’s a lot to be said for roasting corn, too. You can use field corn, if you can find it, which is usually cheaper than sweet corn. Field corn’s not usually meant to be eaten by humans without being ground into cornmeal first, but roasted corn is an exception — that’s where the term “roasting ears” comes from. You don’t have to husk the corn before roasting, though to be honest you probably should; I’ve never tried to peel a hot husk off an ear of corn, but it’s probably a lot harder than unwrapping a sheet of foil. Where was I? The corn browns a little as it roasts. It can be cooked on a barbecue. Maybe best of all, roast corn can be seasoned as it cooks.
I know — lots of people like the simple taste of plain corn. Well, there’s room for all tastes. Everybody gets their own ear, after all. All you really need to add to the roasting corn is butter. Tonight, I decided I wanted a Mexican taste in mine. If that sounds good, try this.
- 1 ear of sweet corn, husked
- About a teaspoon of butter, melted
- ¼ teaspoon chili
- 1 pinch cumin
- 1 pinch salt
- Mix the chili, cumin, and salt with the melted butter.
- Brush onto the corn and wrap in aluminum foil. Roast at 400 for about 50 minutes.
- Turn over the corn halfway through cooking if it occurs to you. If not, don’t worry.
- If there’s any of the melted butter with chili left over, try it on popcorn.