Nothing says summer like fresh, sweet corn on the cob, with a simple pat of butter and char marks from the grill. No matter how you eat it, corn is at its best when it’s just been picked and peeled from its bright green husks. Here are some of our best tips for choosing and working with corn, plus simple ways to prepare it from the Williams-Sonoma Test Kitchen.
Look for: Go to your local farmers’ market for fresh corn, and choose ears with green husks that feel cool to the touch. The silk, or tassels, should be pale yellow and moist. The kernels should be tightly packed in even rows and look plump and juicy. Once the husk is removed, the corn begins to lose moisture and freshness more quickly. Keep corn wrapped in its husks in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook it, preferably for no longer than a day.
Prep tips: Strip the husks and silk from the ears, snapping the leaves off the bottom along with any remaining stem (unless you want to keep it as a handle for eating). To remove stubbornly clinging strands of corn silk, scrub the corn with a vegetable brush under cold running water.
Uses: Crisp corn kernels need just a sprinkling of salt and pepper or a pat of butter to taste delicious. You can drop fresh corn into boiling water and cook it quickly, roast it in the oven or grill it on a barbecue, usually brushed first with oil or butter and wrapped in foil. The kernels can be cut from the cob and sautéed, steamed, boiled or added to a variety of salads and other dishes.
Variations: Not all corn is yellow. Some types are white or a mixture of white and yellow kernels. Blue corn, grown in the Southwest and Mexico, is used mainly for chips, cornmeal and flour. Popcorn is used for only one thing.
Quick Corn Chowder: Saute minced shallots in butter until softened. Add corn kernels, diced potatoes, chopped thyme, chicken or vegetable broth, salt and pepper; cook until potatoes are tender. Stir in half-and-half and chopped basil.
Corn Fritters: Cut kernels from 4 ears of corn; toss with 1 beaten egg, salt, pepper and 2 to 3 Tbs. flour. Refrigerate batter for 30 minutes. Warm a thin layer of foil in a fry pan, drop in large spoonfuls of batter and cook, turning once, until golden brown.
Corn and Black Bean Salad: Toss corn kernels with black beans, sliced green onions, chopped cilantro, diced jalapeno, diced red onion and diced avocado. Season with salt, lime juice, cumin, olive oil and red wine vinegar.
Mexican Street Corn: Shuck corn, rub with oil and season with salt. Grill on high until tender and nicely marked. Brush with mayonnaise, sprinkle with cayenne and roll in finely crumbled cotija or feta cheese; serve with lime wedges.