My sweetcorn is ripening on the cob and I am nervous. According to my American cookbooks, the only way to serve corn is to bring a pan of salted water to the boil then, as it starts to bubble, rush into the garden, cut the ears and race it back to the pan. Only thus will its sweetness last.
Far more American than apple pie, corn was grown in Mexico 5,000 years ago, caused riots among French girls in 18th century New Orleans, and was served by John Adams as Indian Mush at diplomatic dinners. I like mine scraped from the husk before boiling (agreeing with an 1844 American etiquette book that ‘it is not elegant to gnaw Indian corn’) then served with a generous hunk of butter or, cold, with vinaigrette.
But how about this simple recipe from Chez Panisse? Simmer together two tablespoons of unsalted butter, a chopped onion and 1/4 cup of water for 10 minutes. Add four more cups of water and bring to the boiil. Quickly throw in the kernels from five corncobs and boil for another five minutes. Then puree, sieve, season and serve with a dollop of garlic butter. It certainly beats grits.