Ask Peter: Grilling and serving corn
What is the best way to roast corn — do you boil it and then just blacken on the grill, or cook from scratch? I presume you leave the husks on? Can you suggest some butters and rubs that I could make to go with summer barbecues?
Grilled corn — there’s nothing quite like it as you bite through the smoky crispy crunchy outside into the sweet moist kernels. There are a couple of ways to cook your corn and it’s entirely up to you how you do it.
I prefer to remove the husks and then lightly oil the cobs by rubbing olive oil over them and cooking from raw on the barbecue or in a skillet, turning them as they become golden (although the odd blackened kernel isn’t too bad either).
Others I know prefer to boil them in salted water in their husks and then just toss them on the grill, peeling their husks off as they serve them. Although this is pretty good, and the kernels stay nice and plump, they just don’t take on the smokiness that I like.
Also, if you’re going to boil them then why bother throwing them on the barbecue at all? Those who like this method argue that they can take them pre-boiled to the beach barbecue and it’s just a matter of quickly reheating them. They also say the husks keep sand off the kernels. But even though I’ve written “it’s up to you’’ I’d actually suggest you grill them from raw.
As to the flavoured butters you could choose — there are almost no limitations. What you’re after is something with some punch that will be able to offset some of the intense sweetness of corn which is amplified with the grilling as the sugars present in the corn caramelise.
1. Remove the woody stem from a handful of kaffir lime leaves and place in a small food processor with the grated zest of 1 regular lime and its juice, 1 chopped fiery red chilli (use the seeds too), a clove of peeled garlic, 2 teaspoons grated ginger and whizz into a paste. Whiz in 250g butter at room temperature and blitz till emulsified. Keep in the fridge — roll into a log in baking paper to resemble a fat sausage.
2. Soak 3 tablespoons of salted Chinese black-beans in tepid water for 20 minutes then drain and chop. Add 2 cloves crushed garlic, 2 teaspoons finely chopped lemongrass and 2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds. Mix into 150g softened (not melted) butter and half a bunch of finely shredded coriander and store as above.
3. Mix 4 tablespoons basil pesto with 1 cup mayonnaise and use this to spoon on the corn. Mix some sun-dried tomato pesto and snipped chives into cream cheese or mascarpone. With all the above, make sure you liberally sprinkle the corn with salt as soon as it comes off the barbecue (not before as the salt will just fall off as it cooks) then spread with whatever topping you’re using.
As well as serving cobs grilled with butter or with flavoured oil drizzled over them, I also like to barbecue them, cut the kernels off and make a salsa. Mix the kernels with diced or thinly sliced red onions, sliced spring onions, lime zest and juice, lots of mint and coriander leaves and a little freshly ground cinnamon and grated fresh ginger. Some barbecued garlic (cooked in a sealed foil “packet’’ on the barbecue for an hour or so before being peeled and chopped), also works a treat in this.
In our Ask Peter series, executive chef Peter Gordon answers your curly culinary questions. If you're stumped over something food-related, send your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and keep checking in for answers. You can read more on Peter on his website, have a read of his Ask Peter articles or check out his recipes on our site.