Corn on the cob is about the most perfect thing to eat on Labor Day weekend. Still, this simple surprising puree made with fresh kernels cut off the cob is a fine rival. A small amount of heavy cream and grated Parmigiano bind with the milky corn juices to achieve the texture of an ethereal polenta with a very pure, concentrated corn flavor. It is pure comfort food, summer-style. I have been known to eat it as a meal on evenings alone, made with 1 or 2 stray ears from a corn-on-the-cob feast.
The polenta makes a lovely side dish or bed for grilled steak, pork, fish or shrimp. Thinned further with cream, with half the Parmiagiano, it becomes a sauce, say, for salmon or grilled chicken. If you happen to have some falling-off-the-bone slow-cooked meat – barbeque is perfect– shred it and spoon it over as you would regular polenta; sauteed or grilled wild mushrooms would also be great. It would make a fine breakfast porridge with butter and fresh pepper…or without the Parmigiano, with blueberries and a drizzle of maple syrup.
The polenta is best made with tender summer corn whose kernels have not developed much fibrous starch as stored corn does.
Recipe: Fresh Corn Polenta
6 large ears fresh corn
2 or 3 tablespoons heavy cream or crème fraiche
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1 or 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Pull the husks off the corn and remove any silk that still clings. Place a box grater on a large sheet pan, or in a large bowl. Using the side with the largest holes, grate the corn kernels until you reach the cob. You should have about 2 ½ cups.
Heat a large nonstick skillet over moderate heat. Add the corn puree, 1/4 cup water and salt. Simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the mixture has become very thick, about 6 minutes. Stir in the heavy cream and the cheese and fresh pepper to taste, and butter if desired. Adjust seasoning. Serve at once or keep warm in a bain marie.