When I was a kid, corn on the cob was prepared one way, and only one way.
My mom would husk the ears and pile them – sometimes having to jam them – in a large stockpot. She’d add about an inch of water, cover the pot, then bring it to a boil and steam the heck out of them. Then we’d slather them with butter and salt and call it good. And I’m pretty confident most American families followed some variant of this basic approach.
These days, we are awash in alternatives, all of course proclaiming to be the best. Some sound crazy, but work wonderfully (do yourself a favor and Google microwaving corn in the husk). Others just sound crazy (filling a cooler with boiling water and corn may be an easy way to feed a crowd, but… ew…).
But as most of us have learned, grilling corn probably really is the best choice. The smoky flavor and gentle char bring out the sweetness of the kernels. The only trouble is all the conflicting advice – to soak, or not; to oil, or not; high heat or low heat; direct heat or indirect heat.
Over the years, I’ve discovered most of that really doesn’t matter. My basic approach to grilling corn is simple. I husk the ears and rub them with a bit of oil. Then I pop them onto a grill set to medium heat. Now and then, I turn them to get them evenly heated and lightly browned. That’s it.
But even though my grilling method is simple, I still like to gussy up my ears after they come off the grill. My recent favorite – heaps of shaved queso fresco cheese that is seasoned with paprika, salt, pepper and garlic. Of course, if you prefer to cook your corn on the stove – or in the microwave, or even in a cooler – this topping is just as delicious on those ears.
GRILLED CORN WITH QUESO FRESCO
Start to finish: 15 minutes
8 ears of corn, husks and silk removed
8-ounce block queso fresco cheese
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 / 2kosher salt
1 / 2ground black pepper
1 stick butter, cut into 8 pieces
Heat the grill to high.
Rub each of the ears of corn with a bit of olive oil. Once the grill is hot, arrange the corn in a single layer on the grill grates. Cover the grill and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 6 minutes, turning several times.
Meanwhile, use a grater (large holes) to grate the queso fresco into a medium bowl. Add the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper, then toss well.
When the corn is ready, use tongs to transfer it to a rimmed baking sheet or baking pan that will fit on your grill. It’s OK to stack the corn. Sprinkle the cheese mixture over the corn. Arrange the butter chunks evenly over the corn. Place the pan on the grill, cover and cook for 2 to 4 minutes, or until the butter is melted. Serve immediately.
Nutrition information per serving: 250 calories; 160 calories from fat (64 percent of total calories); 18 g fat (9 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 40 mg cholesterol; 20 g carbohydrate; 2 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 8 g protein; 160 mg sodium.
J.M. Hirsch is the food editor for The Associated Press. He blogs at http://www.LunchBoxBlues.com and tweets at http://twitter.com/JM–Hirsch . Email him at jhirsch(at)ap.org