Monday, August 8, 2011

Baked Corn Pudding - Version 2: Updated and Improved

 My original post can be found here: Baked Corn Pudding: Simple and Delicious. It was my second post but it was stuck there in February when fresh corn isn't an in-season commodity for most of us. I made it on Saturday, but changed it slightly, including my approach to the seasoning. Is it worth getting excited over changes to a recipe that has just ONE main ingredient? Oh, hell yes!
Here are the changes:
  1. For every three (or four) ears that you grate, cut the kernels off of the fourth (but save it to grate any extra corn-liquid).This dish is delicious when all of the ears are grated but even better with some whole kernels.
  2. Season conservatively and taste. By that I mean start with a small pinch of salt, combine thoroughly with the corn and taste. If that's not enough, add another, combine and taste. Go very easy on the salt. For this batch, I used two small pinches of kosher salt (for a net product of approximately 2 cups of unbaked corn - it was perfect. The same goes for the pepper.
  3. The butter that you use to top it should be unsalted, chilled and cut into tiny cubes - this helps cut down on the amount of butter in the dish. I used 1 teaspoon for each of the ramekins pictured, below. Using less butter has no negative impact on this dish.
Another thing that's very important is that you need a minimum depth of two- and up to three (-ish)  inches of unbaked product in whatever container you use to cook the corn. You need to bake it long enough to get at least a little brown, but not so long that it dries out. It's  more important that the corn pudding is moist than completely browned on top. I started checking these after 25 minutes and ultimately baked them for 35 minutes. There should be some liquid bubbling around the outside and the middle should be moist, but not runny.

The ramekins pictured below are 1 cup (8 fl. oz), with a depth of 2" at the inside rim.
On the left, about 1 teaspoon small dice of chilled butter scattered over the surface. You could use more butter I guess, but I think too much butter detracts from the corn flavor. I placed the ramekins on a baking sheet. If you are making a larger quantity and use a single oven-proof container, there's no need for the baking sheet.
Recipe: Corn Pudding (v2)
Serves 4 as a side - multiply at will to serve more.


Ingredients:
  • 4 large ears of corn (7-9 inches long), husks and silk removed. Trim off 1/4-1/2 inch at the tip and remove about the same at the stalk end.
  • 2 teaspoons well-chilled, unsalted butter + a little to grease the baking dish
  • kosher salt (if using table salt and/or salted butter, use a smaller pinch when seasoning)
  • fresh ground pepper
  •  Oven-proof baking dish. The dish should be sized so that there is a depth of at least 2" of corn and up to 3" (ish). If using ramekins, place them on a baking sheet before putting them in the oven.
  • Box grater (or corn creamer) and a large container over which you'll grate the ears. I generally do it over a flexible cutting mat and slide the grated corn (after grating each half ear) into a mixing bowl. 
  • Sharp knife for removing the kernels from one ear and cutting the ears in half, lengthwise
Instructions:
  • Pre-heat the oven to 400 F, rack in the middle.
  • Lightly grease the inside of the baking dish with butter
  • Cut 3 of the prepared ears of corn (see above) in half, lengthwise. Slice the kernels off of the fourth ear into a bowl. When the kernels are removed, grate any remaining bits of corn and liquid into the bowl.
  • Grate the remaining corn into the bowl.
  • Season the mixture with 1 small pinch of salt. Combine well and taste. Continue to season (conservatively) and taste until you are satisfied. A little goes a long way, here.
  • Season the mixture with a few grinds of black pepper and taste. Continue to season (conservatively) and taste until you are satisfied.
  • Pour the mixture into the prepare baking dish. If you are using ramekins, make sure that the mixture is combined well as the liquids separate very quickly from the corn solids.
  • Remove the chilled butter from the freezer and cut off a 2-teaspoon slice. This isn't brain surgery so a little more won't hurt. Cut it into a small dice and distribute evenly over the top of the corn mixture.
  • Dust the top with a little bit more fresh-ground pepper and place the baking dish in the oven. If you are using ramekins, place them on a baking sheet first.
  • Check the corn after 25 minutes and thereafter every 5 minutes. There should be some liquid bubbling around the edges and the center should be moist but not runny.
  • Let it rest for few minutes, then serve.

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