Thursday, July 7, 2011

Corn Off the Cob with Green Onions

Okay, I admit it. I have "corn-on-the-cob" phobia. I envision biting into it and leaving behind my teeth. It just makes me queasy. And then there's the whole messiness of it--bits get stuck between your teeth. Your fingers get all greasy and buttered. You need five napkins to keep wiping your mouth.

I prefer corn off the cob. It's just a bit more civilized (really, I'm not a snob) and you can do all kinds of things with it. The other day in the grocery store a woman just went on and on how our store didn't have a "corn-shucking" station. She wouldn't shut up. To me, taking out several ears of fresh corn to the back porch to shuck is just part of the ritual of eating it. The peek-a-boo strip of golden kernels as you pull off the leaves revealing that fresh, green scent.

Having grown up in the Midwest, I, of course, grew up with corn. Many of my "backyards" were literally corn fields, albeit it was feed corn for animals. Still, it's a gorgeous plant, tall and stately with its green, tropical-like leaves. And then those lovely ears with plumes of silk.

This recipe is about simplicity and taste. The green onion doesn't overpower the sweetness of the corn. And, it's just pretty.
  • 3 ears, fresh corn for 2 cups of kernels
  • 3 green onions for 1/2 cup, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Olive oil
  • Salt

Shuck the corn leaving the stem or stalk intact so you can use it as a handle when you de-kernel it. I use an old baking sheet, not a bowl, to de-kernel corn. It provides a wider surface to catch the kernels. Use a sharp knife. Holding the stem in one hand, push the knife away from you and down the cob. You should end up with about 2 cups.

Chop the green onion, including the tops, for 1/2 cup. More is better than less.

Heat the butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a medium pan. When hot, add the green onions and sautee for a few minutes. Add the corn. Stir and mix. Sautee for about five minutes or so. You're just really warming up the kernels. You want them to keep their crispness. Salt to taste and serve.

Potato and Bacon Pie

Rustic. Easy. Delicious. You probably have the ingredients in your kitchen right now.

When I had my art studio in Michigan, I became friends with the Whites from St. Louis who often visited twice a year. Some summers, they'd arrive with their son, Chuck, who loved to cook, and his family. Being invited over for dinner was always a treat. It's there that I first had this wonderful pie which was served as a side to barbecued lamb. Those are fond memories, indeed.

This is classic Italian fare and the original recipe can be found in The Silver Spoon cookbook, the culinary bible of all things Italian. With a salad it's a great dinner that goes well with wine, red or white. I often just like a cold glass of milk.

The original recipe calls for "batons" of potato. To make batons, cut off the ends and sides of the potato until it is square. Then cut into 1/4-inch slices and then cut those into 1/4-inch "batons" or "fries" about two-and-one-half inches long. I've also just roughly chopped the potato. But don't use round "slices" since the bacon and onion just doesn't incorporate as well. Having done all three, I prefer the batons.

I like to remove much of the fat from the bacon. Ironically, this is easier if you buy an inferior or less expensive brand of bacon because it usually has a ton of fat that simply pulls away from the bacon meat itself. A good bacon will be "marbled" with fat and it's more difficult to separate. And don't use a "sweet" bacon. You want one that is naturally smoked. I suspect that in Italy, they would have used pancetta.

I bake mine in an 8 or 9-inch enamel-lined, cast-iron skillet. The original recipe calls for a "roast pan," more likely a shallow metal pan. I've also used a black heavy metal pie plate. (A heavy Pyrex dish will work, too, but you may want to bake 25 degrees lower and for less time if using glass, but the final result will not be as "crispy.")

I also throw in a bit of minced fresh rosemary and thyme when I have it on hand. When I don't, I sometimes add a few splashes of Tabasco. Go easy on the salt, since the bacon has quite a bit, and you can always salt the slices later. Use a quality pepper.

  • 11 ounces potato, peeled and cut into batons (about one and one-half potatoes or 2.5 cups)
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 slices uncooked bacon, roughly chopped (I use 4-6 ounces of bacon "meat")
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1-2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs, such as rosemary and/or thyme (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 5 tablespoons milk, half-and-half, or a combo of milk/cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sour cream (optional [is sour cream ever an option???])

Preheat oven to 400 F degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the uncooked, chopped bacon and onion. Add the potato batons and, if using, minced fresh herbs. Mix well, taking care to incorporate bacon throughout. Sprinkle with flour and mix.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs and milk and/or cream with "a little salt and pepper." I use more pepper than salt.

Add egg mixture to potato-bacon-onion mixture and stir until combined.

Melt butter in pan until it begins to brown. (Here's what I do--I put the butter in the pan and then put the pan in the oven as I pre-heat it and leave it there while I prep the rest of the ingredients. By the time I'm done, the butter is where I want it. If it browns too fast, just remove from oven.)

Add mixture to hot pan with butter. Smooth the surface. Bake for 45 minutes. Remove. Allow to sit at least 15-20 minutes before serving. Spoon sour cream on the side of each portion.

Serves 2-3 as a main course. As a side, 4-6.

If possible, save a slice for your morning breakfast.