Ears and Cobs and Husks, Oh My

How to shop for it, shuck it and cook it. All that and more in this week’s featured article.

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Corn is a grain indigenous to Mexico and has served as a nutritional staple for centuries. Let’s dive into what makes this ingredient special. 

SHUCKING CORN

Oysters aren’t the only food that gets shucked. Removing the husk and silk from an ear of corn can be a tedious task, but if you know a few key tips, you can ensure a more efficient process. To begin, make sure the silky tassel is still attached. This will make your job a lot easier, since this is what you’ll grab onto, in order to “unzip” the cob from its husk. Don’t worry, it will pull most of the silks along with it. This would be a good time to mention that shucking corn can get a little messy so we recommend shucking inside a plastic or paper bag.  

Next, grasp the top of the leaves and tassels together and, simultaneously, grip the bottom of the ear with your other hand. Pull down straight in one firm tug, all the way to the bottom! You’ll want to break off all the leaves and the silks, snapping them off at the base of the ear. Okay, there may be one or two strands of silk remaining and that is perfectly okay! If you get a particularly stubborn husk, which can happen, try microwaving the ear for a minute or two before shucking. 

Grilling corn is one of the most practical cooking methods for feeding a crowd and imparts the most flavor.

WAYS TO COOK CORN

Fresh corn is an incredibly versatile ingredient. When buying corn, look for ears that have a tight outer green husk that is not dried out, and plenty of silk. Beware of corn that has holes in its husk, since this is an indication that worms have penetrated it and the corn will be dried out. 

Fresh corn can be boiled, steamed, pressure cooked, roasted, grilled, and even microwaved. Corn tends to make an appearance at most cookouts and barbecues and, if you’ve had corn prepared on a grill before, you’ll understand why. Grilling corn is one of the most practical cooking methods for feeding a crowd and imparts the most flavor. The other method that we recommend for achieving maximum flavor is oven roasted. Simply spread butter on your shucked ears of corn, wrap them in aluminum foil and roast until the kernels are tender, usually about half an hour. 

As for canned corn, don’t count it out! It is a staple in many pantries, since it lends a sweet flavor and crunchy texture to salads, stir-fries, salsas and wraps. Canned corn can also be used in chowders and soups. 

Fresh corn can be boiled, steamed, pressure cooked, roasted, grilled, and even microwaved.

MEXICAN GOLD

No other food culture celebrates corn like Mexico, where it is considered a sacred plant. To start with, it is the main ingredient of tortillas, which is the basis for the bulk of Mexican food. Tortilla is a flatbread made with maize flour, used to make tacos, quesadillas, chilaquiles, enchiladas, nacho chips and tostadas. Corn is also used in Mexican desserts like sweet corn cake (pastel de elote). If that weren’t enough, many foods, such as tamales, are steamed in cornhusks. 

Elote is Mexican corn on the cob and is a common street food there. This messy snack is made by either roasting or boiling sweet corn, then it is slathered in mayonnaise, crema, and chili powder before a generous sprinkling of cotija (a crumbly cow’s milk cheese). 

Pozole is a traditional Mexican comfort food that is a cross between a soup and a stew. There are 3 types: Red (Rojo), White (Blanco) and Green (Verde). The word pozole means hominy (dried corn soaked in a mineral lime bath) which is first cooked in a broth. Then shredded pork is typically added, and several ingredients, such as diced lettuce, chiles, onions, avocados and lime are used to garnish it. It is commonly served as a celebratory dish, enjoyed on New Year’s Eve, birthdays and Mexican holidays.