Tonight’s dinner is summer’s last hurrah.
Of course, just as my “Welcome, Autumn!” spicy peanut soup fell on one of September’s hotter days, forcing me to forsake the planet by cranking the A/C, tonight’s cod with creamed corn and succotash (from The Bon Appetit Cookbook) came on a dreary, rainy, decidedly unsummery day.
I cannot win. Damn you, uncooperative weather! But let us not mull; there is succotash to assemble.
The succotash was a simple tomato, fava bean and corn affair.
This was actually my first-ever succotash, both making and eating. See, I have this problem where I become convinced that I don’t like foods that I haven’t actually tasted. (See: Olives. I know, I know.) Lima beans, a traditional succotash ingredient, were long on that list, probably because you not supposed to like lima beans. But then Corolla Barbeque’s baked beans, which include limas, turned my pretty little head, so the door was opened to lima beans more generally.
Of course, this particular recipe uses fava beans, which I’ve never had a problem with, so there’s really no issue, is there? I apologize for the digression.
This succotash also has tomatoes, something else I didn’t think I liked (it’s a texture thing) until I had home-grown tomatoes a few summers ago, which are worlds apart from most store-bough specimens. Previously, I’d grown tomatoes out of a sense of obligation (it’s a New Jersey thing) and then given them away to friends and family. Once I sucked it up and tasted one, it changed my world.
Okay, not really. I mean, let’s be fair: home-grown tomatoes are really good, but life does go on. I have to assume that my life would not be substantially different than it is today had I NOT tasted the tomatoes. This is not the road less traveled; it’s just vegetables.
Once the beans and corn were quickly cooked in boiling salty water – I always think of St. Thomas Keller when I blanch things now and his commandment that the water should “taste of the sea,” even as I mock him for his fastidious ways – I tossed them with the tomatoes, some olive oil and a pinch of salt, and left them to sit while I creamed the corn.
Which I think will be my new euphemism for “fucking up.” “Man, you really creamed the corn that time.” Granted, it could sound like something gross if you’re some kind of filthy reprobate, but I prefer to see it as quaint.
Brian wasn’t as thrilled with the corn-centric nature of this meal because it turns out that when you try to cut the raw kernels from the cob (at least, when you try it with a could-probably-use-some-sharpening chef’s knife), there is a tendency for corn juice to shoot every which way and for errant kernels to wing across the kitchen at the slightest provocation. As he is unlike me and prefers not to live in filth, it was hard for him to watch.
The creamed corn begins with wasting corn: you blitz a few cups of it in the FoPro to release the corn’s sweet juices from their cellulose prisons, strain out the liquid and chuck the corn solids. The corn juice gets briefly reduced in a hot pan, before cream and a shitload of fresh corn is added to cook through.
Creamed corn is yet ANOTHER thing that always seemed kinda icky to me; yes, for a food blogger, I have some severe food issues. I never had occasion to eat it growing up, because my mom most likely regarded it as some kind of heinous American perversion,* and then I never really wanted to, probably because it looks a little like dog hork.
As it turns out, the fresh, non-canned version of creamed corn is TOTALLY DIFFERENT than what I imagined creamed corn to be. Shocking! It’s sweet and crunchy and intensely corn-y and wonderful and now I’m doubly sad that corn season is over.
*Visiting Italy, family would always try to make me feel at home by serving canned corn with dinner. No matter what else was being served. Also, unheated. Yum!
The last step was searing off the cod. There’s not really much to tell: fish, salt and pepper, oil, hot pan.
As you can see, my cod suffered some structural compromise during the cooking process. It was merely cosmetic; I did not disrespect the fish.
I spooned some creamed corn onto my plate, topped it with a piece of fish, topped that with the succotash, and it was eating time.
Does that look like a plate full of summer, or what? Say yes and we can move on.
As it turns out, I love both succotash and creamed corn. In fact, I ate so much of both of those that I didn’t finish my cod, which seemed superfluous to me. The pops of acid from the tomatoes really wake up the succotash, and I really can’t say enough about the joy that is fresh creamed corn; sweet and rich and a lovely accompaniment to the fish.
Brian loved it as well and scarfed down whatever I couldn’t finish, so no fish was wasted in the production of this dinner. The dogs even got some raw trimmings, so everybody went home happy.
I probably should have learned a valuable lesson about trying new foods from this experience, but I still have no plans to taste an olive.