Most of the time I keep vegetable side dishes very plain, either steaming them or roasting them with just a little olive oil. Occasionally I like to spice things up a bit with a more involved dish – corn and browned butter is one of our favorites. It is sublime with in-season fresh corn, cut off the cob just before cooking. It also works with leftover corn on the cob, again in season. Outside of the summer months, the recipe is perfectly fine with frozen corn. Of course, when browned butter is involved, just about anything tastes pretty good.
My dad’s family used to make fried corn whenever we had a big family dinner. It was always delicious – warm golden corn flecked with brown toasty spots. Mine was never as good. A few years ago I read a recipe for fish with corn sauce by Melissa Clark in her book, “In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite.” She used browned butter to make the corn for the sauce and it was a true “aha moment.”
I had only ever used browned butter to make desserts, and not often. I decided to try frying my corn in browned butter. There was no way combining corn and butter was going to be bad, so I had nothing to lose. I did learn that you don’t need a lot of butter at all, or the corn is greasy. And I learned that I needed to be more daring when browning the butter. It truly needs a few minutes to get really brown and develop the toasted flavors.
Yes, it takes a few more minutes to make than microwaving a bowl of frozen corn, or boiling corn on the cob, but those few minutes elevate corn from an everyday side dish to a vegetable worth savoring – until you fight your family members for the last kernel in the bowl. Yes, it is that good.
Corn and Browned Butter
From The Cook’s Life
1-2 tablespoons butter
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen (no need to thaw frozen)
Melt butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Continue to cook butter, stirring occasionally, until it starts to darken and smell toasty. Keep an eye on it and continue to cook until the butter is medium brown. Don’t let it get too dark or it will taste burned (I have never had this happen, but it is possible). The whole process should take 5-10 minutes, depending on your stove. Add corn and stir to coat with butter. Cook corn over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until hot and slightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, with salt and pepper to taste. Leftovers reheat well.