We are more than halfway through Sweet Corn season at Terra Firma. That means that the moths have finally found the ears and the caterpillars have been chewing on the tips of the corn. If you are squeamish about them, simply give each ear of corn a good shake before bringing the corn inside your house, or cut the top 2-3 inches off with a knife.
A couple of years ago, I got my first gas grill and started experimenting different ways to use it to cook vegetables. It is very hot in Winters in the late afternoon, and cooking inside the house is a good way to kick your air conditioning into overdrive. So grilling is not just a festival and seasonal way to cook around here: it is an environmentally sustainable way to reduce electricity consumption. Propane may be a fossil fuel, but burns cleanly and running a grill uses very little of it.
But even if you live in a cool spot and don’t have an airconditioner, you should still consider grilling — at least during corn season. Why? Because it’s the best way to cook sweet corn. It’s fast. There’s no waiting for the water to boil. And it’s almost foolproof, because unless you set the ears on fire completely, they always turn out perfect.
I have found two ways to grill corn, and they produce completely different results. I’m sure there are others as well.
Version 1: In the husk. This produces corn with a texture identical to boiled corn, but with a slight hint of smokiness. You are essentially steaming the corn inside the husk. You can get more smokey flavor by letting the leaves brown more, but once they turn black the kernels will burn as well.
Remove any loose leaves from the ears of corn, and all the silk that is hanging outside the husk. Then soak the ears completely in a bucket or pan of water (I use an igloo cooler) for at least 10 minutes.
Put the corn on the grill. You don’t need to preheat it, which means you can cook the corn while the grill is preheating for other things you may want to cook. Use a tongs to turn the corn every 5 minutes or so, as the husks turn brown. The soaking keeps the husks from catching on fire as they dry out, but if you forget about the corn completely this can still happen.
Turning the corn 3 times is generally sufficient to brown the husks all the way around. Remove the corn from the grill with the tongs. At this point, you can leave the corn in the husks and it will stay hot for 15 minutes and warm for up to half an hour. If you are in a hurry to eat it, use an oven mitt to remove the husks as the ears will be steaming hot. But either way, don’t de-husk the corn until you’re ready to serve it.
Version 2: Foil-wrapped. This produces a distinctly “roasted” corn flavor and texture, as the foil allows moisture to cook off and the kernels to shrivel and brown slightly. The corn will be chewier while retaining its sweetness.
Remove the husks of the corn and then wrap them individually in foil, twisting at each end to seal them. Preheat the grill to 400, then lower the flames on one side and put the corn on that side. Grilling the corn this way it’s not necessary to turn it, but if you don’t, the side of the ear facing down will brown more than the top side. If you want uniformly browned corn, turn the ears once or twice.
The ears will be ready to eat in 10 minutes, but if you want a more “roasted” experience, you can leave them on the grill for longer. Corn cooked this way goes great with lime juice and chile powder. It’s also a great addition to a roasted tomato salsa.