We’ve had family visiting from Seattle for the past several days, and on the first day we put together a clambake – a huge pot (about 7 gallons) filled with potatoes, chorizo, sausage, corn on the cob, steamers, little necks, and lobster.
Remember our corn with the pink hair? Part of the 3 Sisters gardens? Yeah.
Well, we picked a couple of ears a little while ago and though they looked fully matured on the outside, the kernels were still small and flavorless.
Ah well, lesson learned.
So we waited a bit longer, and watched, happily, as more ears grew to full size.
Earlier this week, on one of our morning meanderings through the yard, Bill decided to check an ear to see if the kernels were mature enough (you know, they cleaned their rooms without being asked, didn’t roll their eyes when we said stuff, made sound financial decisions) to be harvested. He peeled back the husk and pressed against one of the kernels with his thumb nail. It was not milky yet – the innards of the kernel – so the corn wasn’t ready. Oh well, what’s another day or two?
When my sister and I were kids, my mom used to put us to work at various points throughout the summer helping her prep vegetables for freezing. She used to do a lot of canning, originally. Probably before we came along, or before we were big enough to help. Or before she and my father bought that really big stand-up freezer and put it in the basement. I think it maybe just became easier to pack things in the freezer in plastic containers than to can them. I don’t know.
All I know is, my sister, me, and our friend, Dolores, if she was at the house, became extremely cheap labor.
I think sometimes I love things like crab and lobster more the second day, when I get to mess around with the leftover meat and be all creative and pretend i'm an Iron Chef (in my head). Okay, not that Iron Chef part. That would be silly!
Anyway, we had some crab parts left after Friday's seafood feast...
As you can see by the photo above, I didn't make muffins. I am just not that nuts about muffins. And since this is really at heart a cornbread recipe (to me, anyway), I figured I'd bake it in a cast iron skillet, as cornbread should be baked.
But first things first.
I whisked my dry ingredients.
And, while my ground beef was becoming taco filling (with my own seasonings, not a pre-packaged blend, thankyouverymuch) on the stove, I assembled the wet ingredients and the corn and peppers and cilantro.
OH - and the shredded cheddar. No - don't feel obligated to re-check your notes. That's MY version of "Playing Around" with this recipe. The cheese belongs with the rest of the ingredients, and it also adds some additional moisture. (And of course it's that additional moisture that's the REAL reason for my adding it in...it couldn't possibly be my belief that nearly everything should be topped with a layer of melted cheddar...or filled with oozing brie. No, couldn't be that at all.)
Anyway, I combined...
And I spread the mixture in my cast iron skillet...and sprinkled on some more cheese. For cosmetic purposes only.
And then I slid the pan in the oven to bake while I cooked some Goya rice (with green chiles and tomatoes) and assembled the other ingredients for our taco dinner.
Twenty-five minutes later the rice and the cornbread were done.
Here's the cornbread:
Last night's pictures don't do it justice, so I took a few more this morning (better lighting).
Predictably, I loved it, Bill loved it, Julia liked it well enough last night but REALLY liked it earlier this morning as part of an early lunch, and Alex didn't like it at all. He apologized for not liking it, "but I just don't like all the stuff in it."
Ah well. It's still a good average.
I think this cornbread (as cornbread, not as a muffin) would be BEST along a long-simmered bowl of chili. But since I didn't have the ingredients or the time for the long-simmering yesterday, I figured some fast tacos would work out okay.
And they did.
In fact, I didn't have tacos at all - I just split open a piece of the cornbread and topped it with the taco fillings.
I did almost the same thing a little while ago, both for me and (once she saw what I had and wanted me to share it with her) for Julia.
Julia ate two helpings (they were smaller than the one pictured above) and I had one. The one in the picture. Okay, one and a half.
Good thing I sent some in to work with Bill today, because I don't think the remaining quarter of cornbread will last the day. It's really, really good.
I'd never seen it in a local grocery store before, but the Stop & Shop that I go to (Route 2 in Warwick, in case you're keeping track or stalking) is in the middle of a big reorganization/reconstruction project, and it seems like they're also increasing the variety of produce and products they carry. So a few weeks ago I was wandering around in the produce dept, heading for the avocados, and there they were. Fresh baby corn. Fresh. As in, not in a can. Actually they had a whole section of baby vegetables. Baby zucchini. Baby string beans. And so on. But none of that interested me - just the baby corn.
I bought some, and Bill used it in a spicy Thai-inspired noodle dish that he made with some frozen cubes of red curry paste he made at the end of last summer. He used tofu, maybe red bell pepper (I can't remember) and the baby corn, along with the noodles and the red curry paste and coconut milk and who knows what else. Kafir lime leaves. Cilantro. And sliced cucumber all around the edges. I should have taken a picture - it looked beautiful - but I didn't. So he'll have to make it again.
But the thing I'm getting at is that in this very spicy and multi-flavored dish, you could TASTE the corn-ness of these baby corn. They didn't taste like canned baby corn - that is to say, they didn't taste like CAN. No, they - oddly enough - tasted like what they were. Like corn. Fancy that!
So of course, I bought some again the next week. How good would it be if I just steamed the baby corn and melted a little butter on them and sprinkled them with salt and pepper? Summer in March! So that's what I did, and you know what? THEY TASTED LIKE CORN!
I realize this post may give you the idea that I don't have enough excitement in my life, if I'm turning cartwheels about corn, but I just like food to taste like what it IS, and so while we've used canned baby corn in the past, it's just been because the recipe called for it and canned was the only way we could get it.
And so - yeah - this IS exciting. Fresh baby corn. That tastes like what it is. YAY!
Pick the lobster meat from approximately two lobsters. Chop into small pieces. Don't forget to pick the meat out of the body. And for goodness' sake, don't forget to include the coral and tomalley. They are FLAVOR!
I'm making dinner...fish tacos and roasted diced sweet potatoes and a cold bowl of shelled edamame and corn sliced off the cob. Sort of a succotash, only cold. Not exactly a salad. It doesn't need anything else.
As I stood slicing cooked corn off the cobs a few minutes ago, I was whisked back to when I wasn't tall enough to wield a knife or work at the counter.
When we were little kids, my sister and I (and whatever friends happened to be at the house that day) were pressed into labor in August to shell peas or snap beans or shuck corn.
My mother was one to can things in tall mason jars that were stored upstairs in the glass-front cupboards of the "back kitchen." The kitchen had once been a functional kitchen but eventually it became the laundry room and storage room and gateway to the place to hide the Christmas presents (the hiding place - at least one year - was in what we called "the back bathroom" - a room mostly used to bathe the dogs - in a glorious free-standing claw-foot tub. I wish I could have taken that tub before the house was sold, but, of course, where would I put it here?)
Anyway, I remember rows of canned peaches and tomatoes up on the shelves - high up where my sister and I couldn't reach them.
My mother was also one for blanching and freezing things. That's what I remember her doing with the peas and beans and corn. Especially the corn. I wasn't nuts about the green things...but I liked it when she did the corn. We'd shuck the corn and pile it onto platters for her, and she'd drop a few ears into a big pot of boiling water, just for a minute or two, I imagine, and then once they'd cooled, she'd stand an ear on end on the cutting board and slice off the kernels in long bands.
I loved those. I'm sure my sister did too. We'd probably hang around hoping to either steal or be given a little section of kernels before being shooed out of the kitchen. Then after all the corn was sliced off the cobs, Mom would pack freezer bags full of broken sections of kernels, twist the tops of the bags and tie them (back in the days before ziploc bags...when we lived out on the prairie...heh heh heh) with the little twist tie things...and Dad or one of us would bring them down to the big freezer in the basement and place them on the shelves with all the other frozen produce.
We didn't grow all these - Mom would go to one of the local farms and buy things in bushels. We groaned about the work at the time - the shucking and the snapping and the shelling...but I think back to how good that corn tasted when she opened up a bag of it in January, and I tell my complaining younger self to shut up. It's worth a little effort in August.
And so, to a lesser degree, I'm doing the same thing. I've roasted tomatoes in olive oil, salt and pepper until most of the water is gone and all the fresh tomatoey sweetness is condensed and mixed with the oil...and I've frozen these in batches to make sauce with this winter. We've roasted beets as well, and they are frozen too. Eggplant as well - I sliced it up and baked it, and now I can throw together some eggplant parmigiana pretty fast too.
I figure each year we'll put away more...and when the kids are older, I'll probably go buy a bushel of corn for them to shuck, and I'll blanch it and pack it away for the winter too.