Food & Drink

Make corn pop: Pan-roasting makes flavor a little sweeter, adds appeal

The sauce for Chicken with Roasted Corn Sauce is made with Dijon mustard, cream and white wine. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis
The sauce for Chicken with Roasted Corn Sauce is made with Dijon mustard, cream and white wine. (Hillary Levin/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS)
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It’s getting so you can’t take a step without treading on an ear or two of corn.

That’s a good thing. Of all the wonders that the Americas have given to the world, perhaps corn is the most wondrous of them all.

We won’t fault you if you want to make a case for tomatoes. But right now, with corn as high as an elephant’s eye, and far more abundant, we’ll pick the sweet yellow (or white) goodness of corn.

Unimportant but interesting digression: Corn always has an even number of rows of kernels. Also, there is one piece of silk for each kernel.

You can boil your corn on the cob, and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact, there is everything right with it. You can soak it in water and cook it on the grill, and you can even microwave it — it makes the silk easy to remove, but just a little rubbery.

But I am here today to proselytize on behalf of corn that is cut off the cob and roasted in a pan.

Pan-roasted corn is a special kind of delicious. Cooking the kernels in a pan concentrates their flavor, making it just a little sweeter, but also adds deeper, lower and earthier notes to the taste.

Plus, the corn is flecked with lovely brown spots. It never hurts to add a little visual appeal.

I decided to create four distinctly different recipes using pan-roasted corn — though two are actually kind of similar. That’s my fault. But they both stem from the same idea: Corn mixed with cream is sublime. Especially when the corn has been roasted in a pan.

I began with an entree that is worthy of serving to company but is quick and easy enough to make on a weeknight. I call it Chicken with Roasted Corn Sauce, the name does not do it credit. Recipe names are hard.

The sauce is actually made with Dijon mustard, cream and white wine (but that’s too many words to put into the title). Dijon cream sauce is a classic with chicken, and I just added corn for an additional irresistible layer of deliciousness.

The sauce requires whipping cream (any lighter cream cannot be simmered), so it is quite rich. It’s not an everyday dish, but if you want to splurge it is definitely the way to go.

Just don’t say it has a creamed-corn sauce. It may be technically true, but if just sounds too inelegant.

For the other dish using a creamed-corn sauce, I put it on penne pasta. The biggest difference between the chicken dish and Pasta With Corn and Cream, other than the lack of chicken, is the ingredient that provides the bass note to the sauce.

Unlike the chicken dish, which makes exquisite use of Dijon mustard, the pasta dish is more rustic in its reliance on onions. Sauteing onions brings out their subtle sweetness, which is what makes Pasta With Corn and Cream so delectable.

The other two pan-roasted corn dishes I made were inspired by the flavors of Mexico.

The best-known street food south of the border is elote, grilled corn on the cob that is slathered with a mixture of mayonnaise and queso fresco cheese and sprinkled with spices.

I thought, why not take that off the cob and pan-roast the corn? And then why not serve it on lettuce, as a salad?

The result was magical. Lettuce turns out to be just what elote needs, a cool, contrasting flavor that takes just enough of the edge off the spice. Also, the lettuce makes it seem a little healthier.

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I also decided to make a salsa, but not just any salsa. Because the corn was pan-roasted, I decided also to pan-roast the other vegetables. This extra step made the salsa’s flavor more mellow and easygoing.

It was still hot, because I like my salsa hot. If you do not, simply remove the pepper’s seeds and pith, and you can always use less pepper.

All good salsa is addictive. With the roasted vegetables and the addition of the roasted corn, this version is more addictive than most.

It just became one of my favorite salsas ever.

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