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Tutorial on how to pick, prepare corn

August 19, 2009 12:00:00 AM PDT
While you many know the perfect way to eat corn, there's endless discussions on how to prepare it. Corn is in season right now, so here's a corn 101 tutorial from an expert.When Peninsula Hotel's Chef James Overbaugh was a kid, they didn't even pick the corn until the water was boiling - that's how fresh it was growing up on a farm.

"Corn has to be served fresh, but I think the farmers take on fresh might be a little bit different than everyone else's take," Overbaugh said.

"I can remember driving home from my grandparents' and saying to my mom, 'Mom, mom, we see a farm stand, we want more corn,' and she'd say, 'Oh that corn was picked this morning. You don't want that, its old," he said.

Overbaugh says corn is eaten in the so-called the milk stage when sugar content is the highest and the starch is minimal, at an 80-20 split.

But in a matter of 3 days, the ratio reverses to 20 percent sugar, 80 percent starch, so shop the farmers market and eat it quick.

No matter where you buy, buy corn with husks on!

"The less you manipulate something the longer it's going to hold," Overbaugh said.

Feel corn for firm kernels, and look for a husk that is a bright vivid green as older corn will have lighter husks. Store corn in the crisper in the husks until they are ready to use, sooner rather than later.

When it comes to preparing corn, boiling, roasting or grilling all work well, each providing a wide variety of flavor.

"I'm always looking for ways to capture the essence of the season and just the fun of summer," Overbaugh said.

For example, try a grilled corn orzo salad.

He prefers to grill or roast with the husks on to keep the moisture in with a nice steam environment, providing an extra bit of smoky flavor from the husk.

He also spices up dishes with flavorful fats, like bacon and the mouthful of cream, but in minute amounts to capture the essence only.

But you can also have it plain with a bit of butter.

"If it's truly fresh, if it's in a large pot of salted boiling water, really a matter of two minutes, three minutes, it should be done," Overbaugh said.

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