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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Bang

Farmers' market corn days. The feverish anticipation for the first summer tomatoes has slowly morphed into a quiet corn frenzy. During the controlled chaos of the weekend market, baskets of corn spill over from several farm stands, quietly holding their own alongside the tomatoes, melons, green beans, peppers, squash, and other stuff. Point. Bag. Pay. Scoot. It's almost calming.

However, when the corn trucks back their corn-filled
beds into the stalls of the market, all bets are off. We turn into crazed shuckers, flinging  husks and silks into the air with wild abandon. Other than having a fun play date with summer produce, it defies logic. Corn stays fresh longer with the husks intact. While some truck vendors encourage shucking, it simply feels wrong. I mean, I don't pack a knife with me to slice open tomatoes or melons to see if I really want to buy them. Sometimes, I shuck. Chalk it up to corn daze.

Last Saturday, while everyone ripped and pulled at their ears of corn, I silenced my shucking urge and bagged 12 un-shucked  ears of Pulaski County Ambrosia corn. With corn in tow, I hit the Paw Paw Plantation for a variety of heirloom cherry tomatoes and made my way to the Blue Moon Farm stand to snag sausages from Stone Cross Farm. While Stone Cross stocks an incredible selection of all natural pork, beef, cheese, and soap products, I've always been taken with their European sausage line. Torn between German bratwurst, sweet Italian sausage, English bangers, or Spanish chorizo I chose the English-style banger sausages for a Kentucky riff on Bangers and Mash.

Sausages and mashed potatoes?
Nope.

Corn Mash.
I suppose I could have simply sauteed corn in butter, pureed it, and called it a day. I wanted more. I wanted
intense corn essence with the pillowy texture of polenta.

A lesson in excess with a hint of insanity. After slicing the corn kernels from the cobs, I scraped the cobs to extract the milk and spooned the wet kernels into a very large cast iron skillet. With the corn on deck, I filled a dutch oven with 5 cups of water, tossed in the corn cobs, added a sliced purple candy onion, cranked the heat to high, brought the water to a boil, reduced it to a simmer, and let the cobs steep for an hour. When the milky stock reduced to 1 cup, I strained out the solids and added 1 stick of unsalted butter to the concentrated stock before pouring it over the cut-off corn kernels. As the melted butter oozed through the corn, I brought the skillet to a gentle medium heat and sauteed the corn for 5 minutes. When the corn was warmed through (not cooked through), I pureed it in batches, returned it to the skillet, and set it aside.

Bangers.
I tumbled 2 pints of gorgeous cherry tomatoes into a baking dish, added slivered candy onions, and fresh thyme. After nestling  4 banger sausages into the tomatoes, I drizzled them olive oil, seasoned them with salt & cracked black pepper, and slid them into a preheated 375 degree oven to braise for an hour.

Fresh Corn Polenta.
Jacked up creamed corn. While the bangers braised, I poured myself a huge glass of wine, pulled a kitchen stool to the side of the stove, and brought the corn to a gentle simmer over a medium flame. Stirring constantly, I simmered the pureed/mashed corn for 20 minutes to cook out the liquid and concentrate the flavor. After 10 minutes, it started to spit. pop, and thicken like traditional polenta, so I reduced the heat to low before adding snipped chives, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup grated parmigiano reggiano cheese, and 1/4 cup creamy mascarpone cheese into the mashed corn.

When the sausages were beautifully browned in the caramelized tomato pulp. I pulled them from the oven, basted them with the tomato-infused olive oil, and sliced them on a sharp bias.

After filling large pasta bowls with the creamy polenta, I spooned the  tomatoes and sliced sausages over the corn. To perk up the braised sleepy meat, I finished with quick-pickled purple candy onions.

Banger Sausages. Tomatoes. Corn.
Sure, the corn took a little effort and time, but the small addition of the concentrated corn stock nailed the pure essence of simple summer corn. Bolstered by the cheeses, it had the soft creamy texture of polenta coupled with the familiar  flavor of gussied up creamed corn. Crazy.

I thought the tomatoes might remain somewhat intact. Nope. They disintegrated into the olive oil, onions, and pork juices. Melted by the high heat, they collapsed into a sticky sweet and savory caramelized tomato jam. Accidental win. Tender pork sausages napped with tomato jam over fresh corn polenta with pickled onions. Ridiculous.


Bangers and Corn Mash.

Pass the moonshine.











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