Seasonal Pantry: Sweet, local corn ripe for the cooking
Last week I stopped by Dry Creek Peach & Produce and left not just with the last of the year’s Arctic Gem white peaches but also with tomatoes, a sweet onion, gypsy peppers, lemon cucumbers and the most delicious corn I’ve tasted in a long time. After nibbling a raw kernel, I shucked it, pulled off the silks, and devoured it all, raw.
Few things have ever tasted better. It was sweet but not too sweet, juicy, and bursting with pure corn flavor. I know this isn’t corn from the Midwest — whenever I write about good local corn, I hear from readers, friends and colleagues who grew up in corn country about how ours is a pale reflection of theirs — but it is delicious and local.
Now is the time to enjoy our local corn and there are countless ways to do so. You’ll find links to recipes from the Seasonal Pantry archives at “Eat This Now,” at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. Those links include corn cakes, shrimp and corn pie, corn custard, succotash, two versions of Mexican corn on the cob and Malaysian corn on the cob.
Risotto is infinitely versatile and can accommodate a wide range of in-season vegetables. It is delicious on its own but also makes a beautiful bed for other foods; suggestions follow the main recipe. You’ll find Vialone Nano rice, the creamiest of the three main risotto rices, at Fircrest Market in Sebastopol.
Corn Risotto with Serving Suggestions
4 ears ripe corn, husks and silks removed
5-6 cups homemade chicken or vegetable stock, hot
5 tablespoons butter
1 shallot, minced
— Kosher salt
1½ cups risotto rice, preferably Vialone Nano
½ cup dry white wine
3 ounces Italian fontina, at room temperature
2 tablespoons fresh snipped chives
First, prepare the corn. Hold each ear of corn over a bowl, and rub the point of a sharp knife down the center of each row of kernels to release the juices, and then run it through the kernels fairly close to the cob to remove them. You should have about 2 cups; set aside.
Put the corn cobs into the stock, along with 1 cup of water. Simmer very gently for 15 minutes; use tongs to retrieve and discard the cobs. Keep the stock hot over a low flame.
Melt 3 tablespoons of the butter in a deep sauce pan or saucier set over medium-low heat. Add the shallot and cook until it is soft and fragrant, about 7 minutes.
Add the rice to the shallots and stir with a wooden spoon until each grain begins to turn milky white, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and simmer gently until all liquid is absorbed, about 3 to 5 minutes. Season with salt.
Begin to add stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition until the liquid is nearly completely absorbed. Continue, stirring all the while, until the rice is almost tender, about 15 minutes. Fold in the corn and any juices that have collected and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the cheese and the remaining stock and stir until the rice is fully tender, 1 to 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat.