Grilled corn appears at roughly 100% of our summer cookouts. Most often, a simple mixture of olive oil, salt, and pepper is the perfect coating, as it allows the delicious, sweet kernels to shine. If I want the corn to be the star of the meal, however, this is my new go-to recipe. The key to any great corn dish is choosing the freshest corn, so I’ll offer these tips:
1. Look for cobs with moist, tight, bright green husks.
2. Squeeze the cob; it should be plump—if it feels scrawny, keep it moving.
3. Pull back the husks just far enough that you can check the kernels—you want them fat, milky, and bright.
It’s a good idea to soak the cobs in water for about 30 minutes before grilling them. This will soften and moisturize the husks so they can withstand the heat of the grill without burning or catching fire. Serve the corn in a pool of creamy cilantro sauce so the cobs can be dipped at your leisure. A drizzle of habanero oil and a squeeze of lime add just the right amount of heat and acid.
Vegetable Kingdom: Grilled Corn on the Cob
Makes 6 servings
- 6 ears sweet corn, husks in tact
- 2 tablespoons Kosher salt
- Creamy Cilantro Sauce (recipes follow)
- Charred Habanero Oil (recipe follows) for drizzling
- 1/3 cup minced fresh cilantro
- 1 lime, cut into wedges
For the Cilantro Sauce (makes about 1 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt, plus more as needed
- 1 cup tightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 jalapeño
For the Creamy Cilantro Sauce
- Cashew Cream (recipe follows)
For the Cashew Cream (makes about 1 cup)
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water overnight and drained well
For the Charred Habanero Oil (makes about 1 cup)
- 1 or 2 habanero chiles
- 1 cup safflower oil
- Peel back the corn husks, but leave them attached at the base of the corncob. Remove the corn silk, then wrap the husks back around the corn. Put the corn in a large pot and add the salt. Put a plate on the corn to weight it down, ensuring it will stay submerged, then add cold water to cover the corn. Let soak for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat a grill to medium-high.
- Drain the corn. If necessary, tie the tops of the corn husks with kitchen twine to keep them closed.
- Put the corn on the grill, cover, and cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until the husks are slightly charred and the kernels are tender, about 25 minutes. Transfer the corn to a cutting board until cool enough to handle, then fold back the husks to expose the kernels.
- To serve, spread some cilantro sauce over the bottom of six medium plates. Place an ear of corn to one side of each plate. Drizzle the corn with habanero oil, garnish with the cilantro, and serve with the lime wedges alongside.
- Play the Song:“Succotash” by Herbie Hancock from Inventions & Dimensions
Make the Cilantro Sauce
- In a small skillet, combine the garlic, olive oil, coriander, and salt. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook just until the garlic is fragrant, about 1 1/2 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool.
- Transfer the oil mixture to a blender. Add the cilantro, lemon juice, jalapeño, and 1/4 cup water and blend until smooth. If necessary, season with additional salt to taste. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
Make Cashew Cream
- Combine the cashews and 1/2 cup water in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Use immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
Make Creamy Cilantro Sauce
- Blend in 1/4 cup cashew cream to make the sauce creamy and add enough water so that it pours easily from a spoon.
Make Charred Habanero Oil
- For a milder oil, leave the chile intact and let it sit in the oil. For a hotter one, blend it. Use two chiles if you really like it hot.
- Preheat the broiler to high.
- Place the habanero on a baking sheet and broil, turning to ensure even cooking, until well charred, 3 to 5 minutes. Let cool.
- For milder oil, in a small bowl, combine the whole habanero, stem still attached, and the safflower oil and let sit for at least 1 day before using.
- For hotter oil, stem and seed the habanero, then transfer it to a blender. Add the safflower oil and puree until smooth, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids.
- Store the habanero oil in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.