I’ve always loved corn. Of course on the cob, bathed in butter, eaten outside with the sun shining on my face, but my love for corn runs deeper than that. Corn doesn’t need its typical glam squad to turn my eye. Back in my very poor, early twenties (shout out to all those used to be struggling actors who re-prioritized their dreams and settled down in less expensive cities!), I would often microwave a can of corn, sprinkle some salt on it, and voila – dinner. My meals these days are a little more complete, but I still reach for old friend corn to add a familiar sweetness to a lot of dishes. Have you ever had charred corn on pizza? It’s a revelation, trust me. Or tried blending buttery, sautéed corn with basil and parm for a game-changing weeknight pasta sauce? Have I convinced you? Well, if not, then just take a look at these.
They are cheesy and savory, with a slight sweetness, and a gentle, tingling heat. They make a hearty appetizer or with a big salad, a satisfying vegetarian main. Also, because you can make these with fresh or frozen corn, you can have them anytime you want – no waiting for the long days of summer my friend. So enough blabbing, here is the recipe. Make it, tweak it, and share it with someone who appreciates corniness in all its beautiful forms.
*During the writing of this post, many corn related puns were pitched (by me), mulled over (also by me), and ultimately rejected for being just too horrendous to print (me again). But if you want some corny, Jo humor, leave a comment and perhaps I will relent.
Charred Corn and Pepper Fritters
Servings: 8-10 FRITTERS Time: 1 HOUR
These have a gentle spice that creeps up the back of your throat a bit but are by no means hot, so feel free to add more or less jalapeno and cayenne depending on your personal taste. They can also be a bit fragile so avoid the temptation to flip them too early, or things could get messy. Top with a fried egg and serve with a salad or home fries for brunch.
2.5 C fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (or other neutral tasting oil) plus more for frying
1 jalapeno, diced small (leave the ribs and seeds in if you want it spicier)
1 red bell pepper, diced
¼ cup milk
2 Tbsp polenta or coarse ground cornmeal
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp smoked paprika
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
¼ plus 1 tbsp flour
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup grated pecorino romano cheese
In a cast iron skillet (preferably, but nonstick is fine too, you just won’t get as much browning) heat oil over medium-high heat. Add corn and press into one even layer. Cook, undisturbed for 5 minutes or until the kernels begin to turn brown.
Add half of the jalapeno and all of the red pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes.
While vegetables cook, combine polenta and milk in a large bowl and set aside.
Once vegetables are spotty-brown transfer to a plate and put in the fridge or freezer to cool down (they don’t have to be cold, just not piping hot – this takes about 5 minutes in the freezer, 15 in the fridge).
Add the cooled vegetables, remaining jalapeno, egg, spices, salt, pepper, flour and cheese to the bowl with the polenta/milk mixture. Stir to combine.
Refrigerate batter for at least 15 minutes.
When you’re ready to fry, heat your skillet back up over medium heat and pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. I used about 3 tablespoons for a 10 inch skillet. Heat until shimmering.
This step is optional, but it’s a good idea to both test the oil temperature and the seasoning. Take a teaspoon of the fritter batter and place it in the hot oil, if it sizzles gently you’re in good shape. Cook for about one minute on each side and then taste it. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and continue.
Scoop out ¼ cup measures of the batter and place in the hot oil. Use the back of the measuring cup or a spoon to pat down the batter forming ½ inch thick patties. Mine were about 4 inches in diameter.
Fry for 4-5 minutes per side, flipping when the first side is a deep, golden brown. The first batch usually takes the longest to brown, in my experience.
Drain on a paper towel lined sheet pan or plate. You can keep these warm in a 250° F oven while you fry the rest, but I didn’t find it necessary.
Serve with sour cream or avocado yogurt sauce (recipe below), hot sauce and lime wedges.
Avocado Yogurt Sauce
Servings: 1.5 CUPS Time: 5 MINUTES
This sauce is easy to put together and delicious on so many things. When I have extra time I’ll grate a half clove of garlic in, or add some ground cumin. It’s great just as is though.
1 ripe avocado
½ cup plain or Greek yogurt
The juice of half a lime
salt and pepper
In a medium bowl, mash the avocado with a fork.
Add yogurt and lime juice. Stir to combine thoroughly.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.