One of things we miss a lot from the States is corn on the cob. You can’t buy it here. It’s such a cruel joke, because we are surrounded by corn fields. If you take a train from Venice to anywhere on the mainland, you’ll see acres and acres of wine vineyards (of course), rice paddies for risotto, and even more than those, corn fields. Everywhere. Yet not a cob to eat. All of the corn grown here, at least surrounding us in the Veneto, is field corn for feeding animals or for making the local favorite dish, polenta. If I ask any of the fruttivendoli (produce sellers) about getting some fresh corn, they ask me what animal am I feeding… We’ve been called worse, I guess!
We adore and miss corn so much that this happened: last August we rented a house in The Netherlands. This house came with… wait for it, a barbecue(!) and the market was full of you guessed it, fresh ears of corn. Adam and I bought them out and literally had grilled corn on the cob and butter for dinner FOUR nights in a row. Nothing. Else. And it was blissful.
Fast forward to now, again in August, and here we are, pining away for corn, when we accidentally stumbled across a true ethnic foods market on the mainland, while out looking for a new mattress. (That’s a whole other story!) And there they were: bushels of corn on the cob! We felt like we came upon the biggest secret in the region!
In thinking about the many ways we could eat this unlimited supply of corn, Vivian Howard and her cookbook, “Deep Run Roots” came to my mind, because I was using her book to think of what to do with blueberries and had also read her chapter on corn.
One thing she is famous for is her tomato sandwich of all things. But, of course it’s great because she only makes it when tomatoes are at their best, in season. And what does she use on this famous tomato sandwich? Smoked corn mayonnaise.
Adam said, “Say no more.”
How fortuitous that I have my handy stovetop smoker! So, on the corn went and I smoked 4 ears for about 20 minutes. They came out looking really golden and brown on some spots, and our entire house smelled like a campfire… and we revelled in it!
This sandwich is an absolute feast. We used three different in-season tomatoes, just because we could, including San Marzanos which we get here fresh. And I baked a hearty wheat bread to stand up to what Vivian calls her “Elbow Lick Sandwich.” This bread was the perfect delivery system for this sandwich. It had a sturdy crust which held the “frame” together, and the insides were soft and squishy, combining gorgeously with the rest of the ingredients. The middle layer of bread was my idea, but really I stole it from Ross and Monica.
But the star of the show, is the Smoked Corn Mayonnaise. Adam says he’s gonna put that shit on everything.
Smoked Corn Mayonnaise
Adapted from “Deep Run Roots” by Vivian Howard
- 4 ears of corn
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 2 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup sunflower oil
Start by filling a large stock pot with 6-8 liters of water and 3 tablespoons of kosher salt and set it on high heat until it comes to a boil. Meanwhile, prepare a large bowl filled with ice and water for the ice bath. Shuck the corn, removing all of the silk.
Place the corn into the boiling water. Once the water comes back up to boiling, boil the corn for 3 minutes. Transfer the corn to the ice bath, to stop the cooking process and to cool it down.
Once the corn is cool, set up your smoker with some fragrant wood chips, like apple or cherry, and smoke the ears for 15-20 minutes.
Cut the corn off the cob and place into a blender. Add in the egg yolks, lemon juice, Dijon, honey, salt and cayenne. Blend until smooth. You may need to give it a stir a few times to get it going. Once its smooth, keep the blender running, and start adding in the sunflower oil, slowly streaming it in until everything is emulsified.
Now, put that shit on everything.
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