Everyone loves corn’s simple, on-the-cob goodness, but what if I told you that in just three simple moves you can turn corn into something as silky as pastry cream, as flavorful as preserves and as satisfying as butter? (Even without any fat?) This corn “butter” was a staple on my station at Per Se, and we stirred it into everything from risotto to rich sauces. It’s all because of the natural starches in the corn (cornstarch, duh); as the starches in the kernels are heated and agitated, they thicken into a smooth, pudding-like spread that tastes like the purest, sweetest corn flavor… because that’s all that’s in it.
There are a zillion ways to eat or cook with this stuff. After you’ve made it, try one of these:
* Slather onto cornbread or a muffin instead of butter for a naturally sweet, rich, fat-free, and big-flavored spread
* Use it on sandwiches instead of mayonnaise
* Fold it into sautéed spinach with onions, and finish with just a touch of cream for killer creamed spinach
* Dribble it onto a hot dog (it’ll remind you of a corn dog)
* Stir it into risotto, especially ones topped with parmesan
* Blend it with vanilla ice cream for a crazy delicious milkshake
* Fold it into sliced squash, top with cheese and fresh herbs and bake into a gratin
* Top tacos or fajitas with it
* Mix it with equal parts shredded cheese, sour cream and a can of jalapenos, bake and serve as a LIFE ALTERING dip for tortilla chips
* Do dessert! Make your favorite cornbread and top with sugar before baking. Top with a layer of corn butter, fresh corn kernels, sliced peaches and sweetened whipped cream.
The best part about this technique is that you only really need one ingredient—corn. You can season the corn butter with salt and actual butter (or even sugar, if you want it sweet) if you’re inclined, but it’s not strictly necessary.
Sweet Corn “Butter”
Makes about 3 cups. Will keep about 3-5 days in the fridge.
8 ears fresh sweet corn, shucked (or more or less)
Butter and salt, to taste, optional
Sugar, to taste, optional
Cut off kernels: Use a chef's knife to cut the kernels from each ear. If you’re a go-getter, you can also scrape your knife along the cob to get the juice. To wrangle the kernels, arrange towels around the cutting board and cut the corn in the center of the circle. Or balance the ear in the center of a Bundt pan and cut—the kernels will drop right into the pan. Eight ears of corn will yield 4-5 cups of kernels.
Blend (or juice): Your best move is to juice the kernels. But if you don’t have a juicer, put the kernels in a blender and buzz them up like crazy—let the blender run on the highest speed (I’m talking the “liquefy” setting) for about 2 minutes. Once the kernels are blended into a smooth puree, pass the puree through a strainer with a rubber spatula. Ta-da! Corn juice.
Whisk and cook: Here’s where the magic happens. Pour the juice into a medium saucepan. Heat the juice over medium heat, whisking constantly. Continue whisking until the mixture begins to thicken and the frothy bubbles begin to disappear—about 4 minutes. When the mixture is thick and bubbling, whisk and cook for about 30 seconds more. Remove from the heat. (If halving recipe, cook about a minute less.)
Season (optional): Taste it—and look for sweet, smooth, earthy and buttery. If you want, add a few pinches of salt or sugar and spoonfuls of butter to perk up the flavor and give it even more of a lingering finish.