Saturday, September 26, 2009
Yes, I am a Jewbilly. A proud and noble Jewbilly. My grandfather was a Russian Jew from Kiev, my grandmother a Southerner from Cowan; a tiny town in the hills of South Central Tennessee. I spent many childhood summers there, riding horses and enjoying long, hot, slow southern days. My grandmother's sister, my Aunt Punk, was a great southern cook and one of my favorite human beings of all time. She introduced me to persimmons and paw paws and she made the best fried chicken, biscuits and gravy, slaw and creamed corn I'll probably ever encounter. I was too young to think to ask her for her recipes which were probably never written down, but instead stored in her muscle memory as she made her signature dishes over and over for most of her life as many great, home cooks do. In hindsight, I only wish I'd paid more attention.
Food for thought: It occurs to me that the tradition of passing down recipes from one generation to the next has been lost in our culture because we've become more reliant on processed foods and cook less. I think that's something we desperately need to bring back.
As a little girl, I was addicted to her creamed corn. She'd make huge batches in the summer and freeze it so she always had surplus. I've always wanted to try to re-create it.
As fate would have it, I recently discovered The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook and I have to say, it's my new favorite. It's engagingly written, and contains both classic and updated southern recipes emphasizing fresh ingredients that are very easy and incredibly satisfying. The Lee Brothers also have a catalog business selling southern specialties such as boiled peanuts, hominy and chow chows. So, if you're a Southerner living in Alaska or abroad, and you're homesick for your favorite foods, it might be a great resource for you.
If you've only ever had creamed corn out of a can you're in for a surprise. How can you go wrong with fresh sweet corn, butter, cream, salt and pepper? After I made it, I realized it wasn't my Aunt Punk's recipe (I'm pretty sure she used lard and flour in hers) but it's a damn fine substitute.
I think it'd be great layered over a big bowl of mashed potatoes (starch on starch!), or if you're a Veg, instead of soup and salad try a warm bowl of creamed corn paired with a beautiful vinegary salad. Or serve it aside grilled pork chops or fried chicken.
In classic Jewbilly style, I'll be having mine with a side of brisket. Très treyf.
From The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook: Stories and Recipes for Southerners and Would-be Southerners
enough for 6
Time: 15 minutes
8 ears of fresh corn
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons half & half, whole milk, skim milk, or heavy cream
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt (I used 2 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or white pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon sugar (I would only use sugar if your corn isn't sweet - use it sparingly, to taste)
Cut the corn from the cob and scrape the cobs with the edge of a spoon to extract as much of the juice and material as possible. You should have about 5 1/4 cups of corn.
In a skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until it's frothy. Add the corn and stir constantly for 1 minute.
Pour in the half and half and add the salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low to a bubbly simmer and stir vigilantly until the liquid has thickened to a dense, yellowish sauce, about 12 minutes.
Turn off the heat and let steam for 2 minutes. Serve immediately, making sure to pool some of the sauce around each serving.