It’s summer in Minnesota, and that can mean many things to many people. For me, it’s not really summer until the road side stands pop up offering cucumbers, melons, potatoes and, of course, sweet corn. Now, it can’t be just any kind of sweet corn. You see, I grew up spoiled. My Uncle Duane had a farm in Southern Minnesota where he raised beef cattle, soybeans and sweet corn, and when the corn was ripe, he’d call my dad and we’d grab a stack of paper bags, head out to the farm and load up. Most of the corn would end up frozen to be eaten over the winter, but we would always reserve a few dozen to be eaten fresh, usually within hours of being picked. I have to say that there is nothing sweeter than a fresh ear of sweet corn piping hot and eaten at a picnic table.
However, these days, Uncle Duane is retired, and I moved to the big city, but that doesn’t mean that farm fresh sweet corn is out of reach. In fact, it’s closer than ever. All I need to do is walk four blocks to the corner and lay down $6.50 for a bakers dozen that’s almost as fresh as the corn of my youth.
There is one problem though. The most common way to cook sweet corn is with a few gallons of boiling water and, while this does yield a fine product, it also yields a couple of less desirable by-products, namely, heat and humidity. And if there was ever an antithesis of summer, in my opinion, it is the hot steamy kitchen.
Well guess what? I’ve cooked pineapple on the grill, asparagus too, also zucchini and peppers. Why not corn? Sure, why not corn. As it turns out, it is easy and better than the boiled version.
Ready? This one is going to go fast.
The trick here is in the technique.
First, peel and remove any loose leaves. Only the loose ones, we’ll need the rest later. This is the perfect time to get your kids involved. Everyone wanted to get their hands on their own ear of corn as we got them ready.
In the mean time, light your grill and let it warm to about 400 degrees. Place the corn, still wet and in the husks directly onto the grill. Close the lid and let them cook for six to eight minutes.
Let them cook for another seven minutes or so and check them for doneness. By this time you should be able to smell the husks crisping up and blackening – this is a good thing. It reminds me of the roasted corn booths at the state fair, very nostalgic.
I like to leave them a little on the firm side because there’s nothing worse than mushy corn. Plus, they will continue to cook off the grill if you remove them to a covered foil pan which is what I do.
Wrapped in foil, they will stay hot for up to thirty minutes or more, which will give you plenty of time to prepare other sides, a main course and drinks. If your guests don’t mind, leave the husks on and let them peel the corn themselves. The peeled leaves can also act as a handle of sorts.
We had this corn along side herb crusted beef tenderloin and toasted cheese bread tonight. The best part was, I didn’t set out butter or salt or pepper, and no one even asked for it. The corn was that good on its own. The final product is sweet and firm with a distinct roasted flavor that you just can’t get from boiling water.