Saturday, July 24, 2010

Succotash Burritos

It's July and the corn is finally ready!

If you don't live in the Northeast or mid-west United States, you probably don't have an appreciation for what this means. And you've probably never eaten a decent ear of corn in your life. Although I grew up in Southern California, I was fortunate enough to visit my grandparents in Western Massachusetts every couple of years as a child. This meant (among other really fun things) that we would get to eat the famous "butter and sugar" corn fresh from the corn stand while we were there. It is really something amazing. Not just a bi-color corn, it is a super sweet variety. Now, the thing about corn is that the MINUTE it is picked the sugar in the kernels starts to convert into starch. Sugar=sweet, starch=not sweet, so it if you think you can buy good corn at Wal-Mart, you are sadly mistaken. Also, you are not terribly smart and have no palate. But, if you live outside of the great corn growing areas you probably don't have much choice. Too bad for you.

Those of us in the Northeast wait anxiously for the summer corn feast. I have a local stand that grows butter and sugar corn and I usually go there. (Grandma Foodie says it is still not as good as the Massachusetts variety, but she is stubborn and rarely admits to being wrong. You know I'm right, Mom. Love you.)

As I mentioned, the sugar in corn starts to convert to starch IMMEDIATELY, so it is IMPERATIVE to only buy enough ears for the dinner you plan to cook that day. Another good trick is to go buy corn late in the day. During peak season the farmer sometimes doesn't pick enough for the day and has to go out and get some more. So while you may get corn that was picked that morning, you may get corn that wasn't picked until an hour or two before you arrived. I have been at the corn stand a few times when the farmer was coming in from the field to deliver more corn. We had an early dinner. Best corn ever.

Now, there is nothing better than a fresh ear of corn dropped into some boiling water, popped out a few minutes later, slathered with butter and salt and chewed straight off the cob. Nothing better. But corn is so good it begs to be used in many other dishes, too. And with the plethora of other fresh veggies at this time of year it is a no-brainer to try to think of some ways to use all that bounty. (Thanks for the bushels of zucchini, neighbor. Remind me to pretend not to be home tomorrow.) I developed this recipe loosely based on one I saw a few years ago in Saveur magazine.

Succotash sounds disgusting, but all it really means is corn and potatoes mixed together.

Succotash Burritos

3 ears of corn, kernels cut from the cob
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
2 smallish potatoes, diced and parboiled for 10 minutes
1 zucchini or yellow summer squash, diced (remove the seeds if it is too big and seedy.)
A 1/2 cup container of chicken stock from your freezer or 1/2 can if you are a loser
1 Hungarian hot pepper, seeded and diced (Hungarian hot peppers are long and yellow and thin. You can use something like a Hatch chili or a roasted poblano if you can't get Hungarian. You want a medium hot pepper with some heft. In other words, not a jalapeno.)
1 cup shredded jack or cheddar cheese
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder

Saute the onion, garlic, red peppers and Hungarian peppers in 1/4 cup olive oil and 2 T butter until soft and slightly browned. Add the cumin, chili powder, potatoes, corn, and zucchini and saute until vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the chicken broth and cheese and cook until the cheese is melted and the chicken broth has mostly bubbled away, about 1 minute. Fill warm tortillas with the succotash and top with salsa.

I might have some more corn recipes soon. If I'm not too busy eating corn.


Erika's Servant said...

Ah hah! I just knew that you weren't a Long Time Californian - only the first generation, that explains so much! There hadn't been time enough to completely work out those northeasterner effects in your genetic make up (I'm sure they exist!). Can't stop to comment more now, too busy waiting for more corn!! It's wonderful when it's fresh and so many people don't realize the difference, it seems. What a shame!!

The Mendon Foodie said...

Au contraire, Erika. On my dad's side we go back several generations of native Californians. Enough so that we enjoyed Santa maria barbeque in Bakersfield with my great aunts and uncles, one of whom was also known to cook rabbit, or "canejo" as they liked to call it so that we little ones wouldn't realize we were eating peter cottontail. I grew up behind an orange grove (dark and scary) which was torn down to plant strawberries. Although I love California strawberries (the ones you get in the grocery store here from CA don't compare to the fresh picked CA variety) I now mourn the loss of the those precious, historic trees. I am about as Californian as you can get.