Corn pudding

This corn pudding gets its smoky flavor from bacon and its heat from chopped jalapeño.

I think fresh corn on the cob is one of the most eagerly awaited treats from our local farms. There’s always an effort to make sure that the corn has been picked most recently, most locally, with minimal time from field to table before the sweetness turns starchy. My husband likes corn so much that if I were willing we would have corn for dinner every single day of the season. (I do like a bit more variety in our menu plans!)

Of course, one needs to do almost nothing to savor this seasonal delight. Most often we simply bring a pot of water with ears of shucked corn just to a boil and turn it off. For some, it is so sweet they don’t even need to add butter and salt, although many prefer it that way.

To change things up a bit, so we could enjoy fresh corn more often, but not always as corn on the cob, I had tried numerous recipes for corn pudding. But I kept finding the flavors weak and uninteresting, so I began working on variations. While my favorite version includes some bacon, a vegetarian version can get a nice smoky flavor from increasing the amount of smoked paprika. I like the heat of a chopped jalapeño to complement the rich creaminess of the custard, and the cheese offers a bit of tanginess. I’ve made this with different types of cheese, depending on the main course I’m serving with it.

Not content to limit our corn consumption to its short season, whenever we make corn on the cob, we make anywhere from 2 to 4 more ears than we intend to eat. Then I cut the corn from the ears and measure out 2 cups of kernels for each freezer bag. Sometimes I vary it and freeze some bags of uncooked kernels as well (all labeled, of course). And in the middle of the winter, with a blizzard raging outside, we can enjoy some bright sunny corn, either in corn pudding, or just sautéed with mixed vegetables, and think of the summer ahead.

CORN PUDDING

Serves 4 as a side dish.

INGREDIENTS:

1 slice bacon, diced, optional, or 1 tablespoon canola oil if not using bacon

1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, diced fine

1 scallion, white and light green parts chopped

2 cups corn, frozen or cut from the cob (about 3 ears)

1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, or more if desired

1/2  teaspoon kosher salt, if not using bacon

1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

3/4 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

1/2  cup shredded cheese, preferably Cheddar, Monterey Jack, or mozzarella

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a medium baking or gratin dish with cooking spray, oil or butter. If you are worried about spillage, place the prepared dish on a foil-lined half sheet pan.

Cook the bacon in a medium sauté pan over medium to medium-high heat until the fat renders. If not using bacon, heat the canola oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add the jalapeño and scallion to the bacon or canola oil, and sauté for a few minutes until softened.

Add the corn, smoked paprika, salt (if using), and pepper, and stir to combine and warm through. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Place the corn mixture into the prepared baking or gratin dish and smooth to level.

In a small bowl, whisk together the heavy cream and eggs until fully combined. Pour over the corn mixture. Distribute the shredded cheese over the top of the corn pudding.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes, until the custard is set. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Elizabeth Baer is a teacher who loves to spend time in the kitchen, and also posts recipes and musings on her food blog, www.culinursa.com/blog