The first big, burlap bags of Long Island corn have arrived at Union Market. The corn is young; the kernels are so tender they pop like caviar. The clean, sweet flavor is that of our best memory of summer corn.
Corn is the great American grain, although most of us enjoy it as a vegetable. It’s the largest agricultural crop grown in America, and the U.S. provides about 40% of the world’s harvest, over 300 million tons annually. While good corn is available most of the year from Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, those hybrids, known as “supersweets,” are designed for days of shipping and storage and are actually too sweet to eat when picked.
The fresh flavor of local corn, sweet yet subtle, gently nutty and milky, is beyond compare. And all of corn’s nutrients will be wholly intact due to the fresh pick. Corn is an excellent source of fiber, provides many B-complex vitamins and is surprisingly high in protein. It’s high in antioxidants, is beneficial to your blood sugar content, and is a good source of vitamin C.
Cooking corn is easy, but you want to be careful not to overcook it, especially when it’s so young and vibrant. This time of year, grilling is a real summer treat, but conventionally boiling it will provide you a scrumptious ear as well.
To boil, find a big enough pot to hold all the corn so it will float pretty free. Bring plenty of unsalted water to boil. Strip the corn of all husk and silk and drop into the water. When the water comes back to boil, cover the pot and turn off the heat. Corn will be done in about ten minutes and can sit in the pot for another 20-30 minutes without overcooking.
Grilling corn comes with as many theories and methods as The Hall of Science. Peel off the husk? Leave the husk but remove the silk? Don’t peel anything? Foil /no foil? The truth is if you’re going to be an attentive grill master, you can completely strip down that ear the same as for boiling, lightly oil it and cook it over direct heat, the same as almost any other grilled vegetable. You want to just barely char it all the way around. Corn grilled like this will drink up butter like a sponge, but a nice alternative is a brushing of olive oil and a good squeeze of fresh lime and salt.