Many seasonal ingredients are around for a very short window of time; their fleetingness is part of their allure. You get excited for them to arrive, eat as much as you can of them while they’re around, and then pine for them the remaining 50 weeks of the year.
Sour cherries in the summer, ramps (on the East Coast) in late spring, persimmons or clementines in the winter — all foods that we desperately want more of but nature stingily keeps from us for most of our lives.
Then there are those ingredients that are technically seasonal but are also so abundant throughout the year that we forget why they’re so special to begin with. Chief among these is corn. Don’t get me wrong, I know that late-summer corn can be delightfully sweet, tender and aromatic. But also, corn is available all year round.
My current favorite way to eat it is to make Korean “corn cheese,” precisely because it’s so outlandishly wonderful. Corn cheese, as anyone who’s ever been to a Korean barbecue restaurant knows, is a concoction of corn topped with melted mozzarella cheese.
I’d never sit down to a bowl of corn and cheese; instead I like to sandwich it between two thick slices of sourdough bread and call it a grilled cheese sandwich, which I’ll eat with a salad because, you know, balance.
A pinch of sugar, then some melty cheeses and just enough mayonnaise to bind it turns the corn into a killer grilled cheese sandwich filling. In addition to all the toasty edges and creamy insides, you get surprise pops of the corn’s unmistakable texture and sweetness.
It’s now a sandwich I crave and, luckily, can make any time I want it, no matter the season.
KOREAN CORN GRILLED CHEESE
By Ben Mims
The beauty of this dish is in tasting the sweet corn mixing with the super stretchy cheese. If you want, you can just use low-moisture mozzarella (you can use fresh mozzarella if you’re against the low-moisture kind, but it won’t melt the same way or produce the same flavor we’re after here), but adding fontina or provolone offers a little more flavor without overpowering the sweetness of the corn.
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup minced yellow onion
- 1-1/2 cups corn kernels (3 to 4 ears)
- Granulated sugar (optional), if you think the corn needs it
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more for brushing
- 8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)
- 4 ounces fontina or provolone cheese, shredded (1 cup)
- 2 tablespoons minced parsley
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 8 slices really good sourdough bread, cut 3/4-inch thick
Heat butter in large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high. Add onion and cook, stirring, until soft and just beginning to brown at the edges, 2 to 3 minutes.
Add corn and sugar (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Scrape corn into bowl and let cool 10 minutes. Stir in mayonnaise, followed by mozzarella, fontina and parsley, and season with salt and pepper.
Brush a thin layer of mayonnaise on each slice of the sourdough bread, then turn slices over. Divide corn mixture among 4 slices of bread, then sandwich them with the other 4 slices. (Make sure the “mayonnaise sides” are facing out.)
Wipe skillet clean, then heat over medium. Add 2 sandwiches to the skillet, cover and cook, flipping once, until golden brown outside and cheese is melted inside, 8 to 10 minutes.
Transfer sandwiches to a cutting board and repeat with remaining sandwiches.
As soon as they’re cooked, cut sandwiches in half and eat, being careful not to burn your mouth on the molten cheese. Serves 4.
Nutritional information unavailable.
>> Variation: Elotes Grilled Cheese
Substitute queso Oaxaca for the mozzarella, substitute queso fresco for the fontina, substitute cilantro for the parsley and add 1/2 teaspoon chile-lime salt, such as Tajin, to the corn mixture. Serve hot with a squeeze of fresh lime.