I am a believer in cream. It has a very special place in my heart, and firmly belongs in recipes with “creamed” in the title. Except this one. Hear me out.
Fatty, grassy cream can be a bit overpowering, and corn is, in fact, plenty creamy on its own. The starchy, sweetly corn-y juices that usually get tossed out with the cob thicken, somewhat magically, into a luxurious “cream” when heated. (Take it a little too far, and you’ll get this Genius, totally dairy-free butter.)
Released by running a blade along stripped cobs, the milky liquid gets to mingle and simmer with stock (stick with vegetable, or even water, for a totally vegetarian side), smoked paprika, and butter. (Depending on how fresh or what variety of corn you have, the naturally-occurring starch may thicken your “creamed” corn more than you might like. If that's the case, thin with water or stock as desired.) All gets tipped into a blender, blitzed to corn cream (or is it creamed corn?), and stirred into a sea of bobbing kernels and softly sweated shallots to gently heat through, while you set the table and call your people to dinner.
Stir leftovers into pasta or a frittata; fold in crisped bacon or frizzled onions; or, dollop onto a hot dog, for—what may be the ancestor of—a corn dog. If making the dish ahead of time, hold back on the herbs until just before serving for a pop of freshness. —Anna Billingskog
4 to 6, as a side dish
medium ears of corn, shucked
water or stock (chicken or vegetable is fine)
smoked paprika, divided
unsalted butter, divided
medium shallot, finely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
roughly chopped tender herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, chives, and/or tarragon
Working with one ear at a time, stand a cob (flat side down) in the center of a large bowl, holding the narrow tip in your non-dominant hand. With a sharp chef’s knife, slice the kernels down and off the cob, turning as you go. When all the kernels have been stripped, run the blade along the cob, scraping upwards to “milk” any residual juice out and onto the kernels. Repeat with the remaining ears. Set the kernels aside, and save the cobs for another use (like stock!).
In a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot or Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons butter over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add 2 cups of the kernels, a healthy pinch of salt, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and the water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer and cook until the kernels are opaque and a little liquid remains, about 5-7 minutes. Cut the heat and let cool slightly before transferring to a blender.
Blend until very smooth, adding 1 tablespoon or so of water or stock to help things along, if needed. You should have about 2 cups of liquid corn “cream.”
Wipe out the pot and return to the stove. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter over medium heat, then sweat the shallot with a pinch of salt until fragrant and just beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the remaining corn kernels and season generously with salt and pepper. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the corn looks glossy and softened, about 7-10 minutes.
Tip in the corn “cream” and reduce to a gentle but steady simmer. Let cook until the starch has thickened the liquid, another 5-7 minutes, then stir in the remaining 1/2 teaspoon paprika. Taste and adjust seasonings to taste. Remove from the heat, shower with the fresh herbs, and serve.