Chilled Corn Custard

SUBMITTED BY CHEF CAROLYN JOHNSON OF 80 THOREAU,  CONCORD MA
PHOTOS BY MICHAEL PIAZZA / STYLED BY CATRINE KELTY

There are so many amazing ways to eat corn! Needless to say, a summer favorite is just boiled and slathered in butter, which is hard to beat when the corn is super-fresh like the ears we get from Brigham Farm in Concord. One fun treat I like to make for the staff at least once every summer is to steam the corn directly over a pot of boiling hot dogs. It saves space and time and infuses the corn with just the slightest bit of hot-doggity deliciousness! I love to grill corn and then cut it off the cobs to make salads and relishes. Its sweetness pairs with beautifully with spicy foods, and I always try and use the cobs to maximize the corn flavor.

Whether it is making a corn stock for soup, or steeping the cobs in milk or cream to make custards or béchamel, I really enjoy mixing fresh corn with dried corn. For example, making corn bread with grilled corn bits, grits with lots of buttery sautéed corn, polenta with bits of fresh corn, johnnycakes bursting with pops of corn kernels, fritters or hush puppies with lots of spicy corn bits.

However, this delicious corn custard is perfectly smooth and makes an excellent base for a marinated cherry tomato salad, some shredded fresh basil, and a dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano. When tomatoes are no longer in season, try serving this custard warm and topped with some sautéed corn kernels and grated Parmigiano.

Serves 6 to 8 as an appetizer

Ingredients:
4 ears corn
1 pint heavy cream
2 whole eggs
3 egg yolks
½ cup crème fraîche or sour cream
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ pint cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon vinegar (red wine, cider, or balsamic)
1 small bunch basil, sliced
grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for serving

Cut the kernels off of the corn and set aside. Chop or break up the cobs into smaller pieces, put in a small stainless steel pot and cover with the heavy cream. Bring to a simmer and let cook at the lowest possible heat for 1 hour.

Strain the cream and dispose of the cobs. Return the cream to the pot (it should have reduced to 1.5 cups) with the kernels of corn. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer, let cook for 5 minutes. Puree in a blender and strain through fine mesh. Let the corn puree cool to room temperature before proceeding.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Measure out 1½ cups of the corn puree into a bowl. Whisk in the eggs, yolks, and crème fraîche. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Divide the custard into buttered ramekins (six 6-ounce ramekins will work well, or eight 4-ounce ramekins to serve more people). Place the ramekins in a baking dish, with a little bit of space in between each one. Pour very hot water into the baking dish until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Loosely cover the dish and put in the oven. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the custard no longer jiggles in the center.

Remove the custards from the water bath, let cool briefly before putting into the refrigerator to chill completely. While the custards chill, stir together the cherry tomatoes, olive oil, vinegar, and half the basil. Season with salt and pepper and set aside until ready to serve.

When the custards have fully chilled they are ready to serve, either in the ramekins or unmolded on a plate, topped with a spoonful of tomato salad, more sliced basil, and some grated Parmigiano.