Cornman corn, sorta

Cornman Chicago/Mexican style corn, with oven fries and braised chuck steak marinated in lime, garlic and soy.

So 4th of July happened recently, and that means a lot of corn on the cob for BBQs and picnics. Our local Wally-World had it on sale for a quarter an ear, so even though we were a little broke right around then, we could get some awesome corn on the cob.

But how to serve it?

For that, let me take you back. It was probably close to 20 years ago, and I was at my Aunt Karen’s house in Atlanta. Visiting with me was my cousin Leonor. Leonor is half Honduran and half of the Polish/Italian mix I am on my Mom’s side. She always lived in the city of Chicago proper while when I was up there, I lived in Oak Park, a suburb. Close to the city (At the end of the block, actually), but still a suburb.

We were in my Aunt’s kitchen and I was going to have some corn on the cob.

“Wait, you should have that like the Mexicans make it,” said Leonor.

I already had margarine out, but when Leonor prompted me to get mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese, I was pretty highly suspicious.

“Put the butter on, then the salt and pepper, then the mayonnaise, then the Parmesan.”

“Bullshit!” I thought, or some less eloquent 12-year-old equivalent. “Mayonnaise on corn? Madness!” (I’m gonna hear it for that…Wife hates it when I curse on the blog)

Still, I trusted my cousin and hoped to high heaven she wasn’t just screwing with me. What do you know? The stuff was great! Later on, when I made my own friends on the Northwest side, I encountered the cornman, a guy with a food cart that served corn nearly how Leonor described it.

Give the cornman a dollar, though it’s probably more now, and he reaches into the steamer portion of his cart, comes out with an ear of sweetcorn, shoves it on a skewer and then proceeds to dress it with margarine, mayonesa, cotija cheese, lime, and chili powder. It’s completely and totally amazing.

Of course, if cornman corn flew under my radar in Oak Park, it’s completely wild here in the country, where people probably just think it’s weird, I know Meghan does, but then, she thinks ketchup is a vegetable.

My homemade version, which I made Sunday evening,  uses the Parmesan because good luck finding cotija near here. I used Miracle Whip style “dressing” instead of mayonesa. I know there’s a difference, I’m not stupid, but I am, as I said, broke. This was probably the part about this that worked the least, and it was still pretty damn good. I also added ground cayenne pepper instead of sweet chili powder because I like setting my tongue on fire, and omitted the lime because I forgot. It’s a lot of different flavors that come together in an amazing way.

In the future, I’ll be trying this with real butter, because y’know, it’s already kind of a heart attack on a stick; then salt, fresh ground pepper and a bit of garlic, Duke’s Mayo (“The secret of Southern Chefs” and really great stuff compared to just about anything but homemade), followed by the cotija cheese, then good chili powder possibly spiked with chipoltle or something like that for heat, and finally, that forgotten squirt of lime.

Oh! I nearly forgot…easy way to cook corn for one: chop both ends off the ear but leave it in the husk. Toss it in the microwave for 5 minutes and it steams in the husk. No weird texture, just grab it with an oven mitt and give it a shake. The ear will fall out and will (ideally) leave all of the silk still in the husk. Try it out, I swear I wouldn’t lead you astray.

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Salsa time!

From the top, we’ve got saucy salsa, corn salsa, and pico style salsa.

As you may have noticed in a previous post, we have fresh tomatoes from our garden. Due to a combination of drought conditions, lack of a hose and laziness, we haven’t had too much luck with the other denizens of our garden, but tomatoes we’ve got.Among these are a fairly good amount of Roma-type tomatoes for me to make sauces and salsa with. And Meghan has been bugging me to get on it and make some before the ‘maters go bad…but it’s been so freakin’ hot!

This morning it wasn’t though. I got my motivation together and made three kinds of salsa, as shown above. I use a handmill type chopper to cut up my ingredients, it’s sort-of a like a small food processor with only one blade and a hand crank to operate it.

I quartered onions and the tomatoes and cut the stems off of the pitifully few anaheim peppers from the garden. Tomatoes I cut the stems from and halved or quartered.

For the corn salsa, I mixed frozen corn with fresh chopped cilantro, some of the tomatoes, some canned green chilis, some diced jalapenos (unfortunately, from a jar), salt, pepper. and lime.

For the saucy salsa (I don’t really know what to call it, but it comes out like a salsa you might buy at a store in a jar, just much fresher), I added a can of Rotel tomato and green chili sauce, diced canned green chilis, the rest of the anaheims, more jalapenos, garlic from a jar, and the salt, pepper, and lime again. This was all simmered on the stove for about half an hour.

Finally, for the pico de gallo style salsa, I used the same ingredients as the saucy salsa, but omitted the Rotel sauce. When I finished running it through the mill, it was very green (and probably still really tasty), but I wanted some more tomatoes, so I cut up a  few more fresh ones (They weren’t quite as ripe as the others I used, but still, they were good.)

Overall, my favorite was the saucy salsa. It gained a bit of sweetness from the cooking. I’m not a huge fan of corn salsa for dipping, so that one’s standing may improve as I make some tacos or something to put it on. They were all awesome, and all better than salsas without garden-fresh stuff in them. Next season, I’ll improve my gardening technique and will have even more to work with.

We got ‘maters!

Our harvest in its “ripening spot.”

We’ve got a garden this year. We tilled a 25X5 foot plot behind our house and planted it with assorted vegetables.We have had some…setbacks, especially one with a rotted out head of cabbage that sort of surprised me. It’s been hot and dry here too, and we have no way to easily water our garden. However, the tomatoes have been doing pretty good.

Don, my father-in-law, says, “Be sure to pick ’em right when they first start to turn orange, otherwise, the squirrels will get ’em!”

I was skeptical, but I defer to Don, because, A) These things ripen up super fast and taste amazing, and B) One that got left on maybe a day too long had a nice little squirrelly bite taken out of it. Bastards.

Anyways Meghan and I got home last night from a drive and as we’re walking to the house, she shouts, “We’ve got ‘maters!” Sure enough, we had plenty that were ripe or near-ripe. Between the two of us, we could barely carry them all back to the house. I asked her to be my stylist for a few photos. The one on top I set up, this one is hers. (She admits to kind-of having a fetish over nice glassware and bowls).

Meghan got one of her favorite bowls for this, a wedding present. I’ll serve something up in a torn piece of cardboard if it’s relatively clean. That doesn’t fly with her.

Of course, since we were taking pictures of something on a table, we had the usual visitor. I took his picture after I finished with the tomatoes. Swear to God, I couldn’t get rid of the little booger when I wanted to shoot the tomatoes, but when I try to get him up there, he wants no part of it. Cats.

“I only do this to vex you” – Eddy. And really, all cats.