Monday, June 6, 2011

Roasted corn polenta

I once knew a man named Dave. He had a PhD in food technology from MIT, held important jobs for the biggest companies on the planet, and was personally responsible for bringing several well-known food products to grocery store shelves throughout the world.

I liked Dave. And miss him now that he's gone.

In summer we ate a lot of sweet corn together. Dave's house was only a few miles from a very nice family farm in southern Connecticut, and whenever I would visit in sweet corn season there was never any doubt as to what we might eat.

Going to the farm with Dave was both enjoyable and, to be honest, a bit unnerving. Dave was a scientist to the core, a brilliant one at that. He made it his business to know, or at least estimate within acceptable margins before leaving his house, when the sweet corn would have been picked (twice a day at this particular farm as I recall). When we arrived at the farm Dave would always press to speak with the person who had direct knowledge of the corn's harvesting that day. This information, though mildly interesting to me, was crucial data to the scientist that I rode with.

Dave had a rule: The time between picking and eating should not exceed two hours. Go outside this limit and the corn's sweetness was, to Dave's mind, compromised, as sugars turn to starch immediately after an ear of corn is snapped from its stalk.

I have never doubted this rule. Because never in my life have I enjoyed corn more than the corn I enjoyed with Dave.

This roasted corn polenta we have here? I would never have served it to Dave. We're weeks away from sweet corn season in Maine, and so I had to rely on Florida farmers. It isn't often that I do this, what with how Dave's flawless corn-picking strategy has stayed with me all these years. However, I am not a patient man. I wanted me some corn. Right now.

I went the roasted-on-the-grill route because of the added depth in flavor it brings to the corn. Friends were coming over and so I grilled a dozen ears, allowed them to cool, then shaved off the kernels with a knife.

Into a food processor went about three-quarters of the kernels, along with a little less than half a pint of cream.

In a deep saute pan went a half stick of butter, the remaining kernels, salt and pepper to taste and the processed kernels. I also added some chicken stock to thin it out, as well as some milk later on. (An associate, whilst passing the stovetop on their way to an open wine bottle, tossed a pinch of fennel pollen into the  mix while I wasn't looking. How fennel pollen came to be in this person's fingers I cannot say.)

Not much to look at, but I couldn't stop eating the stuff. 

Dave might have even liked it. Had I managed to summon the nerve to present it to him.


Jeannie said...

I love steamed corn on the cob and also bbq corn on the cob, slatter on loads of butter and pepper, mmmm.. delicious!

Proud Italian Cook said...

I don't care what it looks like, I know it must have tasted crazy good!

Gin said...

Dave would have loved the polenta:the tribute too. I loved the memories.

Ishkabibble said...

As a guest who was served this at dinner last Friday by MM himself, I must say it was absolutely delicious!

Claudia said...

Oh that does look scrumptious - and we are also weeks away from corn - but it might be worth the weight to do it with MN corn. Dave was smart. Everyone who grows corn tries to cook it (barely) immediately after picking.

Ciao Chow Linda said...

I have to say this looks so decadently delicious, I think it's bordering on the illegal.

Karen said...

There is a saying...looks can be deceiving. I'm sure it was great. I'm going to try it soon.

jerseypaulie said...

New Jersey is famous for it's local tomatos and sweet corn (as well as chemical plants and refineries). I drive by a lcoal farm each day this time of year and watch the corn stalks growing before my eyes. When the corn finally arrives in a 3 or 4 weeks, the place comes alive with cars lined up for ears picked every 2 hours. Your friend Dave was so right about the time picked to the time cooked. We simply boil a large pot of lightly salted water, dump the fresh ears in, cover the pot and turn the burner off. In 5-10 minutes the corn is ready to eat. Slathered in sweet butter and sprinkled with sea salt it is one of life's great pleasures. I have to use my will power (of which I have very little) to not buy the Florida corn that's in the markets now. It just can't hold a candle the local stuff.