Corn, corn, everywhere... (feat. recipe for sweet corn and crab risotto)
Originally published July 28, 2008
It's ironic, really. Drive a few minutes in just about any direction and you’ll end up on a black-topped road with a sea of corn on both your port and starboard sides. Here’s the irony - virtually none of that corn will make it directly into the stomachs of the people nearest to it. Nearly all of it will be used for fuel, feed, or corn byproducts like corn syrup and the myriad of other uses that can be coaxed from this miracle crop.
Sure we find lots of corn at the local supermarket - canned corn, frozen corn, corn meal, corn syrup, corn starch. There’s no telling where that corn originated. Maybe nearby, maybe far away. Even in late July when you can find whole ears of corn piled high in the produce section, its usually not the stuff grown at the outskirts of town.
A couple of years ago, I was driving down the interstate and saw a giant billboard on the edge of a late-July Hoosier corn field. The billboard was an advertisement for a national-chain grocery store. Guess what it was selling. Yep, corn. In giant letters, in the middle of Indiana corn country, it said, “Fresh Colorado Corn!” I wonder if the crew who put up that advertisement realized the irony of the situation. Corn, corn everywhere and not a kernel to eat.
I understand we’ve got a global food system, that corn is a commodity, blah, blah, blah. It still seems silly to me that you have to practically be a detective to find some locally-grown corn to eat in the middle of corn season in a part of the country that grows so much of it.
Fortunately we have a some produce stands, farmers markets, and a few other places that sell some sweet corn and some of us are lucky enough to know a farmer who grows a few rows of sweet corn for family and friends.
While its in season and I’m lucky enough to find some, I’ll be eating quite a bit of sweet corn. I don’t eat much of it the rest of the year. I have not bought a can of corn in probably 20 years. Eating corn in November just doesn’t seem right, somehow. It would be like putting up a Christmas tree in August.
If you love fresh sweet corn, right off the cob, you might want to try this recipe for Corn and Crab Risotto. Corn and crab go so well together and this recipe is a perfect paring. Sure, you could make this in the middle of winter using frozen corn but it won’t be the same. If you think you might have a cold-weather hankering for this risotto, why don’t you buy extra corn, cut it off the cob and freeze it till winter. It’s the next best thing to fresh.
Corn and Crab Risotto
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, very finely chopped
- 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
- 1/2 cup dry Chardonnay
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels (from two ears)
- 1 pound jumbo lump crabmeat, picked over for shells
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock to a boil with the bay leaves. Reduce heat to low. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and cook over medium- high heat, stirring, until softened but not browned, about two minutes. Add the rice and stirabout three minutes. Add the white wine, stirring until it is completely absorbed. Add one cup of the warm stock and stir until it is nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock one cup at a time, stirring until each cup is absorbed.. After about half of the stock has been added, stir in the corn and the crab. Add the remaining stock (discard the bay leaf). The rice is done when it's al dente and creamy. This whole process takes about 25 minutes. Stir in the cheese and butter; season with salt and pepper.