The season’s first bite of steamy corn on the cob, slathered with melty knobs of decadent butter, crackly bits of sea salt and coarsely ground black pepper, marks the beginning of summer’s favorite flavors.
Roasting corn in the husk over charcoal or wood not only highlights corn’s sweetness by gently coaxing and caramelizing the natural sugars, it adds a mild smokiness to the juicy kernels. Compound butter, which is simply butter mixed with other ingredients and flavors, adds a sophistication and complexity.
Homemade butter is surprisingly easy to make, and only takes twenty minutes with a hand held or standing mixer. Using fresh, local cream creates an ultra creamy consistency.
Fire roasted summer corn with saffron citrus butter recipe
- 1 quart of heavy cream, preferably local
- 1/4 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Saffron
- Zest of 2 oranges
- 1 tablespoon Fresh flat leaf parsley, minced
- 6 ears Fresh Zellwood (or local) corn on the cob
- Salt and pepper to taste
Make the butter:
Add the cream to a large glass or non-reactive bowl. Beat on low speed until the cream thickens slightly and then increase the speed to medium/high. The cream will go through many stages of thickness, and then, after about 15 – 17 minutes, will begin to break.
The cream will take on a soft, pale yellow color and begin to become chunky. If you turn the beater off at this point, you’ll see the mixture starting to clump and weep. Turn the speed to medium/low at this point, or you’ll end up with buttermilk all over your kitchen (and you) when the cream breaks. Keep going until you hear a, “Slosh!”
Stages of cream while making butter:
- Starts to thicken
- Coats the back of a spoon
- Almost soft peaks
- Soft peaks
- Stiff peaks
- Super stiff, like chilled frosting would be
- Slosh! Fat and water physically separate and the butter is left sitting in a pool of buttermilk.
Gather the solid butter and squeeze as much water out of it as you can. Pour off the liquid and set aside. Return the butter to the mixing bowl and add the salt, saffron, zest and parsley. Mix on low speed until well blended.
Transfer to a serving bowl and chill in the refrigerator until firm. Or, scoop onto a sheet of parchment paper and roll into a cylinder shape, chill until firm.
The buttermilk is high in protein and can be used in other recipes.
Make the corn:
Prepare the grill for indirect grilling: heat is concentrated on the sides of the grill, rather than then middle, and the food items are placed in the middle cool spot, rather than directly over the heat source.
Pull back the husks and remove the silk from the corn (see instructions below). Soak a large bath towel with cool water and ring out until still wet, but not dripping with water.
Pull the husks back over the ears of corn and place on half of the wet towel, in a single layer. Fold the other half of the towel over the corn and let this sit for 10 – 15 minutes to moisten the husks.
Remove the corn from the towel and place each ear within the cool spot on the grill. When the husks begin to char and dry out, typically about 6 minutes, rotate the corn and flip to cook the other side. Cook for another 6 minutes and remove from heat.
Just before serving, pull the husks away from the corn. Discard, or leave the husks on for presentation.
Slather with the compound butter and serve with additional salt and pepper to taste.
The trick to removing corn silk:
Removing corn silk is undoubtedly the most cumbersome part of preparing corn on the cob, mainly because the strands are broken when the husk is removed, leaving stragglers imbedded between the kernels. The silk isn’t actually attached to the kernels – they’re just stuck. By keeping the long silky strands in tact, they can be easily separated, with minimal after-shuck clean up.
Pull the husks back (but do not remove if roasting the corn within the husks) to expose the corn silk. Part the silk at the very top of the corn, furthest from the stem, by grabbing the top of the silk and dividing it in half with your hands, similar to how you would part human hair for pig tails. Hold the two sections of silk in each hand and pull away from the corn, removing in one large chunk.