A Big Little Recipe has the smallest-possible ingredient list and big everything else—flavor, creativity, wow factor. Psst: We don't count water, salt, black pepper, and certain fats (specifically, 1/2 cup or less of olive oil, vegetable oil, and butter), since we're guessing you have those covered. Today, we’re showing summer corn a good time.
Before I got this gig as an editor, I would wake up at two in the morning, drive along a pitch-black highway, only to arrive at an also pitch-black bakery, where I would feed a container of sourdough starter big enough to crawl inside and fall asleep.
I don’t do that anymore. In fact, after I stopped working as a baker, I stopped sourdough-ing altogether.
It wasn’t until this spring, when my favorite local bakery (and just about everything else in New Jersey) halted operations at the onslaught of COVID-19, that I tried my hand at sourdough again. That’s when I remembered what I forgot amid all those sleep-short nights:
Sourdough starters are fun.
Like plants, they ask for just enough care to make you feel useful (productive! needed!). But unlike plants, they turn into something you can devour, still warm, with salted butter. If you’re new to the game, this recipe from Sarah Owens (award-winning author of a cookbook titled—you guessed it—Sourdough) is an unintimidating place to start.
The most obvious fate for sourdough starter is sourdough bread. But it’s useful to have other tricks up your sleeve. During the first couple months of sheltering in place, I made King Arthur Flour’s sourdough pancakes so many times that, eventually, I turned into a pancake, my husband turned into a pancake, our cat turned into a pancake, and there we were, a stack of buttery, syrupy pancakes with nowhere to go and, still, somehow, more sourdough starter that needed to be used up.
It was only a matter of time before I branched out. So I sourdough-ified any and all bread-y recipes on my radar, like Alexandra Stafford’s Genius No-Knead Loaf and her equally game-changing Overnight Cinnamon Buns.
But most recently, I’ve been on another diversion—a recipe that, in addition to sourdough, only needs two other ingredients, comes together in minutes, and is the definition of peak summer: corn fritters.
These are especially popular in the American South, where they also go by corn oysters, but their origin is pre-colonial. As Mimi Sheraton writes in 1,000 Foods to Eat Before You Die, “Native Americans had been roasting corn and grinding it into meal to make cakes...long before settlers adopted the practice and expanded the corn crop.”
Corn fritters, whether they’re plump like hushpuppies or flat like pancakes, “were born of a desire to stretch summer’s bounty by mixing corn into a fairly standard batter—flour, egg, baking powder, a little milk, sometimes beer for extra leavening—just before frying.”
Sheraton also notes that “the standard American recipe is so forgiving as to be impossible to mess up.” And I couldn’t agree more. This being a Big Little Recipe, most of the ingredients listed above, I skipped. These laid-back corn fritters have no baking powder or soda, no milk, no beer. Just corn kernels, eggs, and sourdough starter (made from flour, be it all-purpose or whole-wheat, and water).
The eggs provide yolky richness and lofty structure. Meanwhile, the sourdough starter offers bulk and binding—and because it’s alive, it also brings a tangy, fermented flavor, the perfect partner to peach-sweet corn.
Like all of those sourdough pancakes, these fritters are happy to be drowned in maple syrup or honey for breakfast. But they’re just as eager to hang out next to lettuces and vinaigrette, or a yogurty tomato salad, or grilled chicken thighs. Or just add a honking pinch of salt and call it a day, what a day, what a day.
Sourdough Corn FrittersView Recipe
|1/2||cup active sourdough starter|
|1/2||cup active sourdough starter|