MOSTLY, I EAT summer corn with as little adornment as possible. I grill it, I boil it, add a bit of butter or extra virgin olive oil and flakey, crunchy sea salt, and–that’s it. I’m done. Toward the end of the season, when tenderness is waning, I concede to corn pudding, preferably served alongside grilled lobsters, a la Lora Zarubin. Where I live, in a rural area of the Hudson Valley, the corn (this year, in particular, it seems–maybe sister Margaret, my gardening guru, can explain why)–is so divine, sweet and crisp and exploding with juice, that anything else is gilding the lily.
That said, I don’t know that I’d have pursued my family’s most excellent adventure to date–our move from Hollywood to Green Acres (yes,we live on a farm, though our agricultural adventures are more amateur garden than agribusiness)–if it weren’t for a brilliant, unexpected and dead simple corn concoction served by a dear friend at least a dozen years ago.
Our friends had invited my husband and I for a long country weekend at their upstate retreat. It was one of those perfect lazy luxury experiences, with winey lunches, unexpected conversations, and lots of silent revelry, otherwise known as gazing at the view. We were so blissed out, and we wondered: Was it the company (excellent)? Was it the hospitality (decadent)? Was it that we were in a state of forced removal from the caged-lion pace of the day to say? Or was there something special in the way this particular place entered our souls and bodies? It would be years before we attempted, once and for all, to answer that question.
On our last morning, our host made us pancakes for breakfast. The maple syrup was local and there was plenty of bacon, both of which I knew wouldn’t increase my pleasure: I like pancakes just fine, but generally, unless we’re talking blini with caviar or Breton galettes de ble’ made with buckwheat flour, I can take ’em or leave ’em. But these? To the batter, our friend had added kernels stripped from three especially fresh, especially sweet ears of local August corn, bought late in the day before from his favorite farm stand. Those pancakes, like the rest of that weekend, were magic. They summed up everything we loved about the casual, simple, ease of our farm country idyll.
Here’s the hitch: there’s no recipe. Make pancakes as you prefer. If I am going gluten-free, I use, oh the shame, a mix, Pamela’s; for regular, I usually make homemade from one of my cookbooks. It doesn’t much matter, though if your favorite pancake recipe includes sugar, you may want to reduce it or omit altogether, depending upon your tolerance for sweet.
For pancakes to serve four to six people, remove the kernels from two or three ears of corn, reserving the juice (I usually hold the ears on end in a shallow bowl and cut the kernels off with a sharp knife,which means that corn and juice all collect together in one lovely, summer yellow soup.) Stir kernels and liquid into the batter just before you ladle it onto the griddle, and see if you, too, find yourself transported to a glorious and peaceful place.
Who could blame you if you decide to move there?