Comfort Food, Of A Sorts
Here I am at 8:30 in the morning, drinking a double strength cup of tea and wondering what happened to Christmas. This year’s festive family time turned out to be a real comedy of errors that blurred the usual sleepy chats over the breakfast table and raucous dinner gatherings.
Let’s recap — D got lost on back country roads for more than an hour, trying to find the turnoff for my parents’ house. I ruined a batch of dulce de leche, to my great disappointment since I’d planned to use it as family gifts and shouldn’t have put making this second batch off until the last minute. Then there was the mysterious (and rather violent) stomach bug that took down first one and then later two more family members right when we were all ready to dig into the feast of holiday dishes. Not to mention my mom couldn’t eat anything for reasons of her own. On top of that, there was a broken furnace and a not so pleasant plumbing problem that required a hurried drive to get parts an hour away. And on top of that, a car battery died and another car got sideswiped! There was a funeral (old friend of the family) and a trip to the emergency room to boot. As a result, some people left ahead of schedule while others got drastically delayed, and all of us felt a little turned on our heads. Looking back on it now, it’s a tad bit humorous and certainly memorable.
I think I need a vacation from my vacation!!
One thing that did go right was my first attempt at using the sweet corn I’d dried back in September. Hopefully you gave drying your own corn a shot since this dish met with rave reviews and shouldn’t be missed. If you didn’t, there’s still hope. I’ve recently learned that some specialty and bulk food stores do carry dried corn, although it can be a bit pricey.
I was eager to serve this old-fashioned creamy corn at the Christmas table because both my grandmother and aunt would be there to offer their feedback. It was my grandmother that instructed me on how to dry corn and provided some guidance as to how to then prepare this dish. And it was my aunt who reportedly loved eating my grandmother’s dried corn casseroles as a kid. Their stamps of approval were definitely to be sought.
I have to admit I was at a bit of a loss on how to get started with this dish until I found a basic recipe through a link on Foodbuzz, which I then heavily adapted. But that recipe really wasn’t much help when it came to deciding when the corn was “done”. I had questions aplenty. Should there be some liquid left? Or should I cook it until everything was completely absorbed? What texture was I aiming to get? Soft like regular cooked corn? Crunchy like dried? Should I season it heavily with salt? Or should it have more of a sweet flavor? Does it need to be piping hot to be good? Or can it sit around with all the other covered dishes until everyone’s ready to eat?
You get the idea.
I went with my gut, like I usually do in the kitchen, and decided to let all the liquid absorb, embrace the resulting chewy-but-not-soft texture (after all, this wasn’t meant to be your regular creamed corn), give it a heavy pinch of salt, and not worry about when it was served. I liked it. My aunt liked it. My grandma liked it. But best of all, my cousin fell in love with it and had several helpings, vegetarian bacon and all – a high compliment indeed!
I won’t go so far as to say this dish saved Christmas for me, but it sure was nice to have a little victory in the kitchen to combat all the other drama. It’s comfort food, most assuredly, and perfect for any wintery day, not just a chaotic Christmas.
OLD-FASHIONED CREAMY (dried) CORN
Developed with hints from my grandmother and a recipe in the Miami Herald
2 c. dried sweet corn
2 1/4 c. fat free milk
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
2 t. sugar
2 T. butter
dash of cayenne pepper
freshly ground nutmeg
generous pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 or 4 strips of cooked (soy) bacon, crumbled
1/4 t. dried marjoram
Place corn in a large heavy saucepan and stir in milk and heavy cream. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to use, stir in the sugar, butter, cayenne, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 35-40 minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Place in warmed serving dish and top with crumbled bacon and marjoram. Serve immediately.