Summer Corn - A Cut Above the Cob

By Charleen - July 13, 2019

Summer corn - slathered, stir-fried or roasted; A glimpse of two great cookbooks: The Breath of a Wok (2004) and Double Awesome Chinese Food (2019); A potluck worthy riff on an Asian noodle salad with roasted summer vegetables and roast chicken.
Who doesn't love the hot crisp, sweet bite of corn on the cob? There are so many ways to cook it, boiled, grilled and, my personal favorite for ease, speed and guaranteed tenderness -- microwaved in wax paper with salt, pepper and butter.
Shortcut to the recipe for Love2Chow Summery Soy-ginger Noodle Salad
Some years ago, Mexican street corn, or elote, started appearing on upscale taco restaurants. The smoky blend of ancho chiles, salty cotija cheese and mayonnaise pops with the fresh greenness from the lime and cilantro, all in counterpoint to sweet, crisp corn kernels. A friend introduced me to Kenji Lopez-Alt's Serious Eats recipe for elote; she prepared the topping in advance and served it with freshly cooked corn cobs at one of our annual gourmet canoe/kayak camping weekends. The topping is so easy and delicious! We made it as a dip to go with corn, veggies and chips at a family event, and it was finger-licking good.
Serious eats recipe
Elote dip from Serious Eats
While I love the browned, caramelized edges that grilled corn attains, it is too easy to cross the line into drying out the kernels. A recipe in Grace Young's The Breath of a Wok (2004), showcased with a two-page photo spread by Alan Richardson, opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. Liang Nian Xiu's Moon Hill Corn and Beans involves cutting the raw kernels off the corn and stir-frying them with green beans and a tomato, fragrant with the triumvirate of minced garlic, ginger and mild fresh chilies. Absolutely delicious and fresh and simple! The heat of the wok lends perfectly to caramelizing the edges of the corn kernels without risk of drying out the little golden nuggets.
from Grace Young Breath of a Wok cookbook
Liang Nian Xiu's Moon Hill Corn and Beans
Among the great things about Grace's recipes is that they almost always work out perfectly the first time you try them, they come with free troubleshooting and advice from the entire Wok Wednesdays Facebook community including the author herself, and they serve as great starting points for variation. What I like to call "clean-out-the-fridge" cooking. Today, I was caught without garlic or tomato, but with two cobs of corn that had been sitting in the fridge all week. The husks were all dried out, but the kernels were still plump. There were also two handfuls of past-their-prime green beans (it had been a busy week), a carrot stump, and a half of a jalapeño pepper. So I adapted Liang Nian's recipe to what I had on hand, sprinkling with brown sugar and omitting the water at the end to augment that rich, browned Maillard flavor.
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Corn cut off the cob also served as the starting point for my riff on a delicious Chinese-American noodle salad from the Li siblings' Double Awesome Chinese Food (2019). I was lucky enough to win this wonderful cookbook through an Eat Your Books giveaway. This is a fun, inventive cookbook less concerned about tradition than with showcasing new combinations that elevate Asian-inspired flavors to a new level. When I tried the Summer Noodle Salad with Ginger Garlic Dressing, I knew this recipe had to be the starting point for our contribution to this year's river camping trip.
from Double Awesome Chinese Food cookbook
I substituted roasted zucchini for spiralized and added roast chicken
There were three of us responsible for feeding 18 hungry people. To accommodate extra prep time for the chosen dessert, Lemon Lust Bars from Joanne Chang's Flour (2010)-the subject of a future post, we decided we needed to adapt this delicious summer recipe into a one-dish meal. Thus, we needed to add sufficient protein to satisfy a group of hungry kayakers.  We quadrupled the dressing recipe, oven-roasting 6-8 pounds of chicken thighs, seasoned generously with Penzey's Galena Street Rib & Chicken Rub, while we were at it roasting the tomatoes and corn. For the vegetarians in the group, we provided Trader Joe's Organic Baked Tofu (teriyaki and sriracha flavors). We cooked the noodles in advance, tossed in olive oil to prevent sticking, and mixed everything on site, cutting up the avocados fresh. While the spaghetti held up perfectly cooked al dente, I recommend soaking the gluten-free rice noodles on site for improved texture -- the flavors were fantastic!
Sheet pans of roasted tomatoes and corn cut off the cob
Oven roasted chicken thighs with Penzey's Galena Street Rub
Recipe from Double Awesome Chinese Food cookbook
Summery Soy-Ginger Noodle Salad with Roast Chicken & Vegetables
While canned and frozen corn often work out just fine, I have taken to adding fresh corn cut off the cob to all sorts of dishes, from salads and pizzas to quiches and stews. I've even started tossing cut cobs into the freezer along with frozen bones, onion ends and mushroom stalks. I hear that the cobs add another level of flavor to homemade stocks and soups...

Love2Chow Summery Soy-Ginger Noodle Salad with Roast Chicken & Vegetables
Serves 4.                                                                                                                         August 8, 2019
Click here for a printer-friendly version

2-3 boneless chicken thighs (~1 lb)
Penzey’s Galena Street rub (flake salt, sugar, black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, sage, cayenne) OR mix
of minced garlic, salt and pepper
1 lb (450 g) cherry tomatoes, cut in half

2-3 ears of corn, with the kernels cut off using a sharp knife OR 1 cup (150 g) canned corn, well-
1 zucchini, cut into 3⁄4 inch thick rounds, then cut into 4 or 6 wedges depending on diameter
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs toasted Asian sesame oil
8 oz (225 g) dried spaghetti (semolina) OR soba noodles OR gluten-free pad thai rice noodles
1 cup (25 g) arugula, spinach or other salad greens
1 Haas avocado, cut into chunks
1 scallion, sliced thinly
1 Tbs sesame seeds

1 inch piece of fresh ginger, minced 1 1⁄2 Tbs lime or lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced 1 Tbs honey
1 Tbs soy sauce 1 Tbs toasted Asian sesame oil
2 Tbs extra-virgin olive oil 
1 tsp black vinegar (Chinkiang or Zhenjiang) OR balsamic vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
a. Unfold or flatten out chicken thighs and rub with spice mix (1⁄2-1 tsp Galena rub or 1 minced garlic plus 1⁄4-1⁄2 tsp each salt/pepper). Place in greased baking dish with sides to catch the juices.

b. Spread the tomatoes, corn kernels, and zucchini into a single layer on a half-sheet pan or baking
pans. Toss with the olive oil and sesame oil. Don’t crowd the pans to give them space to brown. If
the tomatoes are very fresh and flavorful, hold back about half to add to the salad raw.

c. Roast chicken and vegetables in oven for about 20 minutes, or until chicken is done, tomatoes are
collapsed and vegetables have brown edges. Check thicker pieces of chicken for doneness. Set aside
and allow to cool.

2. Boil a large pot of water and cook the noodles per package instructions until just al dente (break off a strand and taste for doneness before draining). Drain and rinse to stop the cooking.

3. While noodles are cooking, place dressing ingredients in a small jar and shake until emulsified.

4. Place noodles in a large bowl with the roasted vegetables, the arugula, avocado, scallions and fresh
tomato pieces, if using.

5. Cut chicken thighs into cubes. Add to noodle salad.

5. Mix in about two thirds of the dressing. Then taste and add more dressing, salt and/or juices from
chicken as desired. Sprinkle with sesame seeds before serving.

This post was updated on August 9, 2019 to add the recipe links below:
Click for the Serious Eats recipe for Mexican Street Corn.
Click for the recipe for Liang Nian Xiu's Moon Hill Corn and Beans

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