Time to Get Corny with Chef Isabella

grilled cornWe grow a lot of corn in Northern Italy—we make flour from it, but we also make our famous Polenta. Have you heard of it? Some people describe it as corn mush or yellow grits. Where I come from, we are called Polentoni, we eat so much Polenta! Personally, it’s my favorite way to eat corn. But there are so many other ways to enjoy it, too!

Whether you are eating corn on the cob, in a relish, or a cold pasta salad, there are a few basic things you should know about the plant.

Although you will not find the distinction in your grocery store, a little background info helps—there are 4 types of sweet corn:

1)   Standard Sweet

Common varieties of this type include Butter and Sugar, with white and yellow kernels. You might also see Silver Queen which has only white kernels.

2)   Sugar-enhanced

Some varieties of this type are Delectable, Kandy Korn, Seneca Dencer. These are known for having a more tender texture than the Standard Sweet type.

3)   Super sweet

This includes Sun, Star, and Xtra Sweet. These are the most sugary of all and have a less “true” corn flavor. Super sweet varieties also have a firmer, almost crunchy, texture. Because of its tougher kernel, it holds its sweetness longer than the other types (this is also why it’s so common in supermarkets where the corn isn’t typically fresh-picked).

4)   Synergistic

Serendipity is a popular Synergistic variety. It requires more time to mature than sugar-enhanced and can be watery if harvested too soon.

When you purchase corn, whether in the supermarket or at a roadside stand, DO NOT HUSK IT or buy it pre-husked. I know that it’s tempting to do, but don’t. You want to check the quality of the kernels hidden underneath. Instead of removing the husks then and there, look for ears that are snuggly wrapped in vibrant green husks. Then, run your fingers along the ears: you should be able to feel plump, densely packed kernels running near to the tip.

Once you bring the corn home, try to use it as soon as possible. If you must store it, again, don’t remove the husk—this husk will protect the corn from losing moisture. Wrap the ears in damp paper towels and seal them in zip-lock bags in the refrigerator for no longer than 2 days.

Since it’s summer, corn on the cob makes a great barbecue addition! Here’s how to grill it:

Set your grill to about 400 degrees (medium to medium-high).

Husk it and remove the silk, but don’t worry about getting every last strand off—the rest will cook off in the heat.

Put the corn on the grill and cover.

Turn the cobs when they are nicely browned on one side (about 2 to 3 minutes).

Continue to cook and turn until the cobs are toasted on all sides.

Serve immediately. Good, huh?