I always forget about corn until we’re smack in the middle of corn season. Then the night terrors return. Well, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but corn does remind me of my childhood summer duty: I was the husker.
Just about every other night in July my mother would send me out into the yard with a paper shopping bag full of corn and strict orders to return it huskless—and more importantly, silkless—in a flash. So I’d sit there alone in the hot late-afternoon sun in my cut-offs and dirty knees, and husk dozens of ears of corn.
Having written that, it sounds kind of idyllic. But I assure you it was not, and to this day I refuse to husk anyone’s corn but my own.
Mom used to stand all the shucked corn ears up on their butts in a pasta pot and add just an inch of milk. She would cover the pot and bring it to a simmer, steaming the corn with whatever evaporated water was produced by the milk. It seemed then, as it does now, like a really silly way to cook corn. Why use milk instead of water if the real cooking agent is steam (the water in the milk)? It can’t possibly impart any flavor. Plus, by asking some poor kid to husk the corn you’ve basically ruined his childhood.
But still, I like corn on the cob this time of year. Instead of shucking it, I simply throw the entire ear, unhusked, onto the grill and let it steam in its own nature-provided package. The result is a much tastier ear, made earthy by the flavor of the husk. Just as importantly, the shucking is now a team effort. If you would like an ear of corn, take one from the pile and shuck it yourself. The silk comes right off in a clump and it’s ready for buttering. Try it this way next time. You’ll be impressed at how much better tasting the corn is with the bonus of saving your children thousands in therapy sessions.
Grilled Corn on the Cob With Cilantro Butter
8 ears of corn, with husks on
1 stick unsalted butter, at summer-kitchen temperature
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the grill to medium heat. Place the un-shucked corn on the grill rack and cover the grill. Cook the corn, turning once or twice, until it is tender, 12 to 15 minutes. Bring the corn to the table.
While the corn grills, make the cilantro butter: Stir together the butter with the shallot, cilantro, the zest and juice of the lime, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Season with additional salt and pepper to taste and serve with the grilled corn.