Cooking from the Farms: Corn Extravaganza

You really can have too much of a good thing.  Too much of even the best champagne brings on pounding headaches.  Too much free time can lead to mischief-ripe boredom.

And then there are the twelve ears of corn in my fridge with only two people here at home to eat them.

No matter how delicious the at-peak summer sugar and butter corn is, I will never be able to pack away six whole ears in the brief time it is at its freshest.  Never.

Even after giving away a couple of ears to a neighbor, I’m still loaded with corn.  Corn kernels are, therefore, going into a lot of side dishes and baked goods, foods I can use right away and ones I can freeze:  salsa, soup, couscous, pasta, fritters, corn bread, and muffins.  I’m even flirting with a sweet corn ice cream served with blueberry sauce to help use up some of next week’s share.  Don’t think I’m kidding about the ice cream.  I’m that eager to find new ways to use the corn before it passes its prime.

I recently learned I could blanch, cool completely, then freeze corn on the cob stored in large freezer bags or containers if I want to extend the eating period for another month or two.  That’s a good fall back if I soon find myself up to my ears in, er, ears.

Until that happens, I’ll continue adding the kernels here and there, working my way through the corn, packing my freezer with goodies that will add a little variety to future meals.

With one exception.  Tonight’s supper.  I have planned a corn extravaganza.

Why don’t you come over? Or at least join me while I’m cooking.

Prosciutto-wrapped Halibut, Corn and Cucumber Ragout, Fresh Corn Polenta Sticks

What tastes better together (or makes more sense together) in the height of summer than fresh fish and fresh corn?  Not much.  Unless it is fish and corn embellished with the thinnest shaving of salty, dry-cured prosciutto.

Halibut stands up well to prosciutto’s assertive flavors, and so does corn.  The three together are a force to be reckoned with.

This is a meal made in four stages and then assembled.  A little bit of work, but a job worth every bit of effort.  It’s important every once in a while to make a big deal celebrating summer’s corn…and the family gathering to enjoy it.

I used all six ears of my Cider Hill CSA corn between the polenta and the ragout.  Their cucumbers and onion too!

For the polenta:

  • olive oil
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 cup corn kernels (2 large, 3 medium/small ears)
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 cup polenta cornmeal (not quick-cooking)

In the morning, or the day before serving, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet set over medium heat.  Saute the scallions until soft then add the corn.  Saute until heated through and slightly golden but not crisped.  Set aside.

Bring stock up to a boil in a medium saucepan.  Add the salt, then slowly whisk in the polenta cornmeal.  Bring the mixture back up to a boil, stirring constantly.  Regulate the heat so that the polenta maintains a gentle bubble and cook it until it is thickened, stirring frequently.  This takes somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes.  Take pan off the heat and stir in the corn-scallion mixture.  Set aside.

Line a baking sheet with foil brushed with olive oil.  Pour polenta into the center of the lined baking sheet and spread it out to a 12 inch square that is one-half to three-fourths of an inch thick.

Place the sheet in the refrigerator and cool the polenta completely (at least four hours or overnight).

To fry the polenta:

  • Olive oil for the skillet

Heat about an eighth of an inch of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.

Remove the polenta from the refrigerator.  With a sharp knife, cut it into 3 long even strips.  Cut each strip crosswise into 1-inch wide pieces.  You will end up with polenta pieces that are approximately 3 inches by 1 inch.  You will only need 8 of these pieces for dinner, so wrap and save the remainder for one of the next day’s breakfast (great with eggs) or cocktail time nibble.

Place the polenta strips gently (they spatter!) into the hot oil and cook, turning, until brown on both sides.

Set aside on a baking sheet and keep warm in a low oven for assembly.

For the corn and cucumber ragout:

  • 2 good-sized cucumbers, cut into ribbons with a vegetable peeler
  • salt
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small, fresh onion
  • 6 scallions, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup vegetable or chicken stock, divided
  • 1 cup corn kernels (2 large, 3 medium/small ears)
  • 1 Tbsp. butter, for finishing
  • pepper to taste

Place ribbons of cucumber and a generous pinch of salt together in a colander and toss to combine.

Let cucumber drain for about 20 minutes then blot in paper towels, gently squeezing out the excess water.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet and add to it the onion and scallions.  Saute until softened then add ¼ cup of stock and cook until liquid has evaporated.  Stir in the corn and remainder of the stock and cook until corn is tender (a few minutes only).  Stir in the cucumber and thyme sprigs and cook for 2 minutes.

Remove stems.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Set ragout aside off the heat while you cook the fish.

For the halibut:

  • canola oil
  • 1 pound of halibut fillet, skinned and cut into 4 pieces

  • 2 very thin slices of prosciutto cut in half to make 4 equal pieces

Wrap each piece of fish with a slice of prosciutto, overlapping the ends on one flat side.  The prosciutto should only cover the fish in one layer.

Heat a skillet to medium/medium-high heat and add a light coating of canola oil to the bottom of the pan.  When the oil is heated, place the fish fillets in the pan, seam side down.  Cook on one side for about 3 or 4 minutes, then flip to cook the second side for another 3 or 4 minutes.  Cooking time depends of thickness of the fish.  Keep the flame regulated so the prosciutto crisps without burning and the fish cooks through without drying out.

While the fish is finishing on the second side, re-heat the corn ragout over a low flame.

When the fish is done, remove to a platter.  You’re ready to quickly assemble the dinner plates.

For assembly:

Place a spoonful of ragout on each of four dinner plates.  Top with 2 polenta sticks, then with a piece of fish.  Serve it up and enjoy!

©2010  Jane Ward