Summer is a wonderful time of year for so many reasons, chief among them being fresh, sweet corn. I love it grilled on the cob with a smear of flavored butter; I love it roasted in salads or salsas; I love it stirred into cast iron skillet cornbread. But this week, the CSA box contained an anxiety-inducing amount of corn for a family of two.
The last time this happened, I made a really disappointing corn chowder from Gwyneth Paltrow’s My Father’s Daughter cookbook (I suspect the lack of pork bacon and cream to be mostly responsible for the boring end result.) So when I stumbled upon a beguiling little recipe for Indian-spiced creamed corn from an old issue of Bon Apetit, my heart skipped a beat.
Creamed corn! Of course! Why didn’t I think of that? Add a ribbon of garam masala-infused melted butter and you get a refreshing take on a decidedly retro dish.
I was pleasantly surprised to learn that I had all the ingredients for making garam masala in my pantry (though the ground cardamom could have easily been past its prime–I don’t even remember why I bought it in the first place). You certainly don’t have to add this step if you have a store-bought garam masala blend you like.
Note: This recipe is best reserved for that candy-sweet, fresh summer corn, particularly because it is thickened and sweetened using the starchy liquid scraped off the cobs. If you’re using frozen or canned corn, you will most likely want to add a bit of flour and a splash of whole milk or cream.
Creamed corn with garam masala butter
adapted from Bon Apetit, serves 6 to 8 as a side dish
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2 1/4 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon (heaping) whole cloves
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground mace
8-10 large ears of corn, husked
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, divided
1 cup finely chopped onion
Kosher salt, as needed
Freshly ground black pepper, as needed
3 garlic cloves, minced
Method: Toast the cumin and coriander seeds, peppercorns, and cloves in a small skillet over medium heat, stirring constantly, until aromatic, about 2 minutes. Let cool. Transfer to a spice mill or use a mortar and pestle to crush finely. Add the crumbled bay leaf and finely grind. Transfer to an airtight container. Stir in cardamom, cinnamon, and mace; cover.
Over a large bowl, cut the corn kernels from the cobs (you should end up with 6 to 8 cups of corn). Then, using the back of your knife, scrape the cobs to release their juices into the bowl. Combine half the kernels and juices with 1/2 cup water in a food processor; purée until smooth.
Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, garlic and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper; cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often, until soft. Add a tablespoon or two of water as needed if the pot starts to look dry.
Add the puréed corn, the whole kernels and their juices, and cook, stirring frequently, until the corn is tender, 10-12 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons of butter. Check the seasoning, and add salt and pepper as needed. Spoon the creamed corn into a large bowl.
Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of garam masala and a pinch of salt. Whisk until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Drizzle over top of the creamed corn. Serve immediately.