Some of the old recipes, the ones I remember fondly from when I was a child, are hard to come by. Recipes for Squash Pancakes, Southern Green Beans, Cooked Kale or Collard Greens and Fried Corn, the stuff we ate as weeknight fare, don’t show up in any of my old cookbooks. If you turn to the vegetable section in those you will find mostly casseroles: Broccoli Cheese Casserole, Green Bean Casserole, Squash Casserole, even Eggplant Casserole. Those were company style vegetables, recipes calling for lots of butter, cheese, cracker crumbs and, almost always, Campbell’s soup.
Those casserole recipes don’t appeal to me much these days. What I crave is the comfort of old fashioned home cooking without an excessive amount of added fat, salt and artificial ingredients. I want vegetables like we ate fresh from the garden on a daily basis.
Take, for example, a simple skillet of Fried Corn. I remember my aunt cutting the corn from the cob and how I was intrigued by the way the kernels stuck together in clusters. I remember that the frying browned the corn a little, but did she add onion? How much pepper and bacon grease were added to the skillet? No matter how I adjust these basic ingredients I can’t seem to match the flavor I remember. Nor do I know how to update the recipe to a more modern tasting version of Fried Corn that still hits on at least some of the flavor notes that set off my nostalgic comfort food endorphins.
In a great stroke of good luck, while catching up on my blog reading, I found a post at Eat. Drink. Think. about Mark Bitman’s recipe for Pan Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad. Reading through it I had to smile! This recipe's title made me think of succulent fresh corn, heat seared and simply dressed. Imagine my surprise when I recognized in it the makings of the Fried Corn from my childhood, updated.
Of course my aunt never added avocado, chile peppers or lime juice to her Fried Corn, but this recipe for Pan Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad does make use of one staple from her kitchen; it uses a fair amount of bacon grease to season the corn. Since I just can’t seem to get the seasoning right for a basic pan of plain old Fried Corn I decided to give this slightly more embellished version a try.
Am I ever glad I did! It turned out to be wonderfully full-flavored but not too fussy. Good hot or at room temperature, the taste is fabulous and in there somewhere there is enough of a hint of the real thing from my childhood to bring a wistful smile to my lips. This is what we called good eating! Give it a try. I think you will like it as much as I do.
Pan Roasted Corn and Tomato Salad
from Mark Bittman (via Eat. Drink. Think.)
¼ lb. bacon, diced
¼ - ½ cup red onion, chopped
4 large ears of corn, cut from the cob (2 to 3 cups)
1 or 2 small chile peppers, seeded and minced
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and chopped
salt and black pepper
½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to brown.
Add the onions and cook until they begin to soften, approximately 5 minutes.
Add the corn and chile peppers. Continue cooking, stirring frequently, until the corn begins to brown, approximately 5 more minutes.
In a large bowl mix together the lime juice, tomatoes, avocado and corn mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in cilantro.
Serve warm or at room temperature.