Dining: Sweet on Corn

But corn is also good with some salt and acidity, too

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No fresh vegetable is so blindly praised for sweetness, and sweetness alone, as fresh sweet corn. As the name implies, and to the exclusion of almost any other flavor metric, sugar content is what determines quality in sweet corn.

I’m not a huge fan of the buttered cob. I appreciate the primal act of gnawing kernels from a seed head, but I prefer to get my daily sugar/fat in other ways. But every dish can generally stand at least a touch of sweetness, and sometimes sweet corn is a great way to add it.

Field corn is America’s most planted crop, and is tied with potatoes for the distinction of being the crop that delivers the most calories per acre—15,000—according to Washington Post columnist and field-corn enthusiast Tamar Haspel.

Given that Mexico is the birthplace of corn, it’s no surprise to me that Mexican ways of using corn are the best. Tortillas and their derivative chips are the most common, but posole, atole, and chicos, among other field corn-based delicacies, are enjoyed as well, not to mention corn smut, a delicious fungus that infects corn. Mexicans eat sweet corn too, on occasion, but as Haspel notes, field corn is where most of the action is.

If I am going to eat sweet corn, I prefer to add it to dishes that will benefit from that sweetness. I will leave you with one such recipe, which I call migas pie, in which both field corn and sweet corn are included. This recipe is a riff on Frito pie, in which corn chips are tossed with other ingredients to form a salad. My recipe employs the crumbs from the bottom of the corn chip bag, also known as migas. They are tossed with a medley of seasonal veggies including sweet corn, tomatoes, jalapeños and onions, as well as hot sauce and mayo, and wrapped into leaves—the more bitter, the better, like radicchio, endive or escarole.

This delicacy includes all of the known official flavors of salt, sweet, acidic, bitter and umami, as well as the aspiring flavors of fat and spice, and a range of crunchy textures. It’s a lively, fun dish to eat and prepare, and can be customized in all sorts of ways. If radicchio is too bitter for you, use lettuce leaves instead.

Migas Pie

one ear sweet corn, kernels sliced from the cob

1 c. migas

1 c. cherry tomatoes, each one sliced in half

1/4 c. minced onion

1 tsp. fresh oregano, minced

2 tbsp. mayo

hot sauce to taste

2 tsp. soy sauce

2 tsp. vinegar

1 tbsp. olive oil

radicchio leaves (or alternative foliage), reserved for final step

Combine all ingredients (except the leaves) in a bowl and mix. Taste, add salt or vinegar as necessary. Spoon into radicchio leaves and eat.

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