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Spread the Love Around – Sweet Corn Succotash with Cumin

I know I have already shared with you a bit about my love of sweet and juicy summer corn. It’s funny because I have not always been a big fan of this great North American staple. Perhaps I was negatively influenced by one too many ears of the severely over boiled and gummy back yard barbecue variety, but in my first year as member of a downtown Philly CSA I left my share of corn in the swap basket on an almost weekly basis. It was not until the end of the season when I arrived one day to collect my share that I came upon the end of the collection line to find the swap basket completely empty. I debated for several moments over leaving the ears for another taker but, as the remainder of the share was a bit sparse, I shoved the 7 ears in my bag and trudged home determined to make my glut of corn into something palatable.

As usual, when I finally battled my way through Saturday morning traffic and out of the city, I arrived home to lay my CSA bootie on the kitchen counter and started to think over possible uses for each ingredient in the trove. Part of that early August share included a block of locally produced farmers cheese, beautiful brown free range eggs, a pint of cherry tomatoes, a loaf of seeded italian bread, a bag of brilliantly verdant green beans, a small slab of thick-cut Amish Country bacon, and, of course, the 7 ears of late season Jersey corn.

As I hold as one of my primary cooking tenets that any vegetable can be made to taste good when sautéed with smokey bacon, I set about searching online for recipes that paired the week’s lancaster county porky delight with the over abundance of bi-color corn that lay in a heap on the counter. I included in my searched other veggies from the week’s share such as greens beans, and tomatoes and what appeared on my screen was recipe after recipe for an old style american classic – succotash. Now, my impression of succotash at that point in time was less than stellar, my prior experiences with the dish had been in college where the vegetable melange was likely poured straight from the freezer bag into a large vat and either boiled or steam to death. This resulted in a seemingly creative and deceptively colorful side dish, which was unfortunately totally devoid of flavor.

I decided to run with the idea anyway and cooked up a recipe for my own rendition of the classic that incorporated the week’s bounty of tomatoes and green beans. The result was very similar to the dish you will find a recipe for below. From time to time I tweak the dish by adding zippy hot peppers like jalapeños or faintly spicy and slightly smokey Poblanos, occasionally, I substitute parsley or cilantro for the basil I initially incorporated but for this meal I selected the simple sweetness of the basil and cumin scented corn mixture as I thought it would nicely complement the spicy and herbaceous steak with salsa verde from my most recent post, which accompanied this dish on the table that evening.

I’m not sure what initially made me reach for cumin when I concocted this recipe but, amazingly, it really works here. Its earthy qualities nicely balance the bright summer vegetables and accentuate the smokiness of the bacon. A strong punch of garlic rounds out the dish and propels the flavors into another dimension. Making this dish reminds me of stir-frying, in fact, I recommend cooking it in a very large cast iron skillet or, alternatively, a wok, which will be large enough to house all of the vegetables while still allowing the cook to stir comfortably.

Although all of the ingredients end up in the same frying pan, they are added at different times and thus, need to remain separate until cooking. The bacon, corn, tomatoes, and green beans can all be prepped ahead of time. The bacon should be thinly sliced and may be rendered in a large pot on the stove several hours before it is needed. If doing this step ahead remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve until needed. The bacon fat should be kept and can be stored in the pan (if you’re planning to cook it relatively soon) or alternatively poured into a small heat resistant dish and chilled until needed.

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At least an hour before cooking you will want to start on trimming the beans and cutting them roughly into thirds. Place these in a small prep bowl. The tomatoes should be cut in half length wise and should occupy their own prep bowl. There are many fancy apparatuses sold on the market that can be used to cut corn from the cob but I think a paring knife works just fine. Try to pick corn that have a little piece of the stalk remaining at the base and keep this on when you shuck the corn. Using the small stem as a handle hold the corn vertically (upside down so to speak, as the narrow end will be at the bottom) and slice down the length of the ear remaining fairly close to the cob. I recommend doing this on a large cutting board as the kernels have a tendency to run amok and fly of the edge of your workspace – setting out a larger space might well be a good idea. As I have mentioned in a previous post I love the frozen garlic that comes frozen in small cubes from Trader Joes but, if using fresh garlic, mince this just before cooking as allowing it to sit in the open for too long will alter the flavor.

I hope your family loves this as much as mine does, leftovers can be stored and reheated or served at room temperature as a side salad of sorts. Enjoy!

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Sweet Corn Succotash with Bacon

2 TSP Cumin Seeds Toasted and Ground
6 Slices of Thick-Cut Bacon Sliced into Segments about as Wide as Your Index Finger
1 Pint of Grape Tomatoes, Halved Lenth-Wise
1 lb. of Green Beans, Trimmed and Cut Roughly into Thirds
5 Ears of Corn, Kernels Sliced from the Cob (see above for my personal method)
2 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
10-15 Large Basil Leaves, Cut into a Chiffonade
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Sauté bacon in a large cast-iron skillet or wok until fat has rendered and bacon is crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Do not wash pan.

Over medium heat add the garlic to the bacon fat and sauté until fragrant. Add the green beans and cumin and sauté until just slightly tender.

Add the corn and stir, followed almost immediately by the tomatoes. Sauté until just warmed.

Remove the pan from the heat and add basil. Stir in salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and serve warm.

A Sign of Good Things to Come – Shrimp and Corn Bisque

I have spent the last few weeks not looking forward to shlepping out to Salt Lake City for an American Payroll Association conference. Firstly because it was a conference entirely dedicated to all things payroll, and secondly because it was in a city I had heard precisely nothing good about – extreme religious conservatism, polygamy, watered down beer (gasp) – I braced myself for the worst. The conference itself was approximately what I had expected, all said it was a good work experience but I am not exactly sad to know they only hold one each year. When it comes to Salt Lake City – perhaps I set the bar a bit low, but the city completely blew away my expectations. The downtown area was pretty, wide streets speckled with interesting local restaurants and a nice outdoor mall, and to top it all off the view of the mountains that surrounded the city was breathtakingly beautiful. I had the fortune of visiting some of the cities eateries with my coworkers, I was shocked to find several good micro breweries featuring peak season produce, amazingly good seafood, and creative home grown beers. But a week out of the house left me longing for home, for my bed and soft sheets, the familiarity of my apartment, and astonishingly more than anything, I could not wait to get back into my tiny little kitchen.

Saturday morning I drove down to the little produce stand next to the gym to discover signs of summer’s bounty everywhere. Melons stacked in pyramids, several varieties of eggplant, jalapenos and basil galore lined the bins beneath the tent, towards the back I found what I was looking for – corn! While not quite the local jersey corn of my dreams these ears from further south were just what the doctor ordered, nice moist husks filled with fat yellow kernels that smelled refreshingly like, well, corn (the corn you get at the supermarkets in the winter is often missing this particular corn smell.)

Bon Appetit had run an article on Shrimp in its June 2011 edition which featured a recipe for Shrimp Bisque and I was determined to adapt it to make one of my all-time favorite, guilty pleasure restaurant foods – the Shrimp Corn Chowder Bertucci’s has been running as part of its daily soup rotation. This soup is velvety with a strong shrimp flavor which is heavily influenced by a hearty dose of homemade shrimp stock – peeling the shrimp may be a bit fussy but its well worth the effort. The early season sweet corn is excellent in this dish as its summer sweetness rounds out and balances the salty shellfish broth. Don’t bother to buy shrimp larger than a standard medium (around a 35 shrimp/lb count) as they will be partly chopped and partly pureed when they make their debut in the final dish. I love to top this dish with roasted Poblano peppers and cilantro for an extra kick and hint of freshness.

Shrimp Corn Bisque

2lbs Medium Count Shrimp (Shells On, Heads On If You Can Find Them) Peeled and Deveined – Heads and Tails Reserved
5 TBSP Unsalted Butter
6 Stalks Celery, 4 Chopped to 1/4″, 2 Chopped Into Thirds
4 Carrots Chopped to 1/4″ Rounds
1 Large Onion Diced
2 Cloves Garlic Minced
3 Bay Leaves, Divided
4 Sprigs Thyme
5 Stems Parsley
3 TBSP Tomato Paste
1/2 Cup Long Grain White Rice
1/2 Cup Scotch or Vodka
1/2 TSP Cayenne Pepper
4 Ears of Corn Shucked, and Cut From the Cob
1/2 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
Juice of 1 Lime
1/3 Cup Chopped Cilantro (plus additional for garnishing)
Roasted Poblano Peppers, Diced (optional)

Melt 1 TBSP Butter in a large stock pot over med-high heat. Sautee shrimp shells in butter, stirring frequently, until golden (about 4 mins) add 10 cups water, 2 bay leaves, and celery (the celery that you cut into thirds) bring to a low boil and reduce to simmer for about 25 mins or until broth is very fragrant and tastes shrimp-y, add salt and pepper to taste.

Place a fine strainer over a large bowl in the sink and strain solids from broth and set broth aside. Discard solids.

Rinse stock pot and place back on the stove over high heat. Add 1 TBSP Butter, add half the shrimp to the put and sautee until the center is just white. Remove shrimp from pot and space out on a place to cool. Add one more TBSP butter to the pot and repeat the process with the other half of the shrimp.

Reduce heat to medium and add onions, carrots, and celery and sautee until translucent, add garlic, remaining bay leaf, thyme and parsely and sautee for 3 mins more. Add tomato paste and rice and sautee for 3 mins. Remove pan from the heat and add liquor, place back on the stove and turn heat up to high and boil until the liquor has almost evaporated. Add stock back to pot, bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for 25 mins. In the meantime chop half of the shrimp into small, bite-sized pieces.

After 25 mins remove pot from the stove and puree the soup in a blender with cilantro, and the 1/2 of the shrimp you left whole. Return to the pot and add cayenne and cream. Add corn and simmer 5 mins. Add chopped shrimp and lime juice and taste for balance, add salt and pepper as needed.

Serve topped with cilantro and diced roasted poblano peppers.

Enjoy!

Categories: Corn, Shrimp Tags: , , ,
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