Corn is one of those ingredients that seems simple—semi-sweet, semi-savory—but has such a strong and nuanced flavor profile that varies, depending on how you prepare it (think fresh, crunchy, milky versus sweet, silky, charred, etc.). Not only that, but given its nimble savory/sweet balancing act, corn works well among all kinds of flavors, and can stand up tall in a crowd of assertive ingredients, which is why this summer in Jersey you’ll find fresh, local corn paired up with flavors like black truffle and melted Gouda, aioli and hot Mexican chile, Asian citrus-brightened caramel, and Jerk barbecue seasoning. Oh, and lots of seafood.
As corn season ramps up, you’ll find even more to chomp into. But for now here are eight ways New Jersey chefs are preparing corn for your summer-eating pleasure.
—Heirloom Kitchen chef David Viana can be creative under pressure (he was on “Top Chef,” he knows how to thrive in bizarre circumstances). And his menu at Heirloom reflects that kind of joyful creativity, even within restricted or difficult circumstances. Witness: corn becomes a luscious dessert (though it’s used in other dishes, too), with the Jersey Corn Cake with a Sweet Corn Gelato, Yuzu Caramel, and Hazelnuts. (Yuzu, FYI, is an Asian citrus that brightens the caramel and here likely plays up some of the brighter, “yellow” notes of the corn itself.) Heirloom Kitchen, 3853 Route 516, Old Bridge; 732-727-9444
—Battello in Jersey City is doing Seared Sea Scallops with Toasted Orzetto and a Sweet Corn Crema, which sounds to us like a gentle symphony of sweet, juicy scallop echoed in the luscious, smooth corn crema and (gently) framed in savory delicate char of a toasted pasta. Battello, 502 Washington Boulevard, Jersey City; 201-798-1798
—Following suit with the seafood-corn connection, Summit House is doing a Shrimp Ceviche with Corn Pudding, Red Long Hot Peppers, Compressed Watermelon, Pickled Rind, and Tarragon. Once more you’re getting corn in a smooth presentation—corn pudding isn’t as loose as a crema, but showcases that sweet-savory vibe you’ll get from fresh corn. Never cloying, especially as Summit House wisely cuts it with pickled rind and the delicate fresh licorice notes of tarragon. Summit House, 395 Springfield Avenue, Summit; 908-273-6000
—You’ll find versions of elote, or Mexican street corn, all pretty faithful to the traditional style, all over New Jersey right now. On his sleek, sexy summer menu, chef Anthony Bustamante at Barrio Costero in Asbury Park puts theirs on a handy little stick, but he wisely respects the ultra-simple, ultra-sublime set-up: char-grilled fresh corn, aioli, lime, and Cotija (or a soft, semi-salty crumbly) cheese. Expect a hint of Mexican chile heat, expect a wave of summer bliss to wash over you. Barrio Costero, 610 Bangs Avenue, Asbury Park; 732-455-5544
—The summer menu is likely to shift into still more produce but for now you can get a subtle sweet corn fix at The Frog and the Peach with their Black Truffle Ricotta Gnocchi with Asparagus, Sweet Corn and Gouda Fonduta. Fonduta, FYI, is another way of saying “melted cheese.” As for the other flavors, yet again you’ll appreciate the double-duty of sweet local corn, with its super-subtle greener (even vegetal notes!) playing into the asparagus and ultra-savory truffle, while that sweetness digs into the rounded, creamy melted cheese and prevents the asparagus from doing anything overbearing. A dish you can dive into, with corn as your trusted navigator. The Frog and the Peach, 29 Dennis Street, New Brunswick; 732-846-3216
—Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen isn’t shying away from enjoying itself this summer (i.e. nor should you). They’re doing corn in a few places on their summer menu, including Barnegat Diver Scallop dish with corn, tomatoes, and sautéed Maitake mushrooms on what looks like some kind of silky corn puree? They also do an Organic Crudite with a Corn and Coconut Bavarois, which is a summer play on a traditional bavarois—a thickened custardy dish, typically a dessert, with a creamy texture (like a pudding, it can be done in a variety of flavors, including corn). Jockey Hollow Bar and Kitchen, 110 South Street, Morristown; 973-644-3180
—Part of their flavor-packed, local-ingredient-stacked summer menu, Mistral has a Jerk BBQ Poussin with Grits, Mustard Greens, and Corn. Granted the corn seems like a subtle addition, but in a seasoning as complex as Jerk, and with bitterness from the Mustard greens, the sweetness of corn goes a long way to play up some of the baking spice flavors (allspice is a main component of most Jerk seasoning) and might even bring some of the corn flavor of the grits themselves back to life—give them that much-needed pop. A down-home dish, if ever there was one (and boy do we need one). Mistral, 66 Witherspoon Street, Princeton; 609-688-8808
—More corn dishes are likely forthcoming at The Blue Bottle Café in Hopewell: they don’t have it on the menu yet but (anytime this week) you’re likely to see some of the fresh corn that farmer Jim Sansone was picking on Saturday the 11th since Blue Bottle themselves shared news of his harvest in this Facebook video. (Sansone’s Farmers Market is also sharing news about the arrival of sweet corn, and locals can go pick it up!) The Blue Bottle Café, 101 East Broad Street, Hopewell; 609-333-1710Click here to leave a comment