Two ears of roasted corn

Hi Everyone, I love corn. I particularly like fresh corn, as it is more versatile. You can eat it raw, boil it, steam it, and grill it. Or, you can make a pie, a custard, soup, salad or bread. And of course, you can roast it.

When corn is in season, all across Barbados at various street corners, you can find little stalls set up with a coal pot or two roasting and selling whole ears of corn. There will be cars lined up on the embankments and a steady stream of customers to and from the stalls. Customers clutching their freshly roasted corn, still hot, in brown paper bags making their way back to their cars excited to tuck in. I kept saying to myself each time I spotted a roast corn vendor that I must stop and try the roasted corn, but each time I always seemed too busy to stop. You see, prior to last weekend, I had never had roasted corn. Sure, I’d had it the many ways I counted above, but never roasted.

I went to a roast-corn stand not too far from where I live. I placed my order for 2 ears of corn and chatted with the vendor as he roasted my corn. I explained to him that it was going to be the first time I would be eating roasted corn; he looked at me and shook his head as if I had been missing something great in my life. “It’s the best way to eat corn,” said his friend sitting beside the stand. I smiled in response as I watched my ears of corn roasting directly on the hot coals, getting all charred and smoky.

As the corn roasted, the vendor began to shuck more corn to roast. Immediately I noticed the rich salmon-like colour of the kernels and proceeded to ask about the age of the corn generally used for roasting. “Some old and some in-between,” he told me. Here in the Caribbean we generally refer to the age of corn in two stages – young or old. The young corn is light cream to pale yellow in colour, sometimes with white kernels depending on the species. On the other hand, if the corn is old, the kernels are light salmon-colour; some would say light orange.

The vendor quizzed me. “Why is this roast corn so good?” At first I drew a blank wondering if my answer should reflect something about the taste (which I could only guess given that I had never had it before) or nutritional value. I opted for the latter and proudly declared that it is an excellent source of fibre! The vendor beamed and I thought to myself – my nutrition teacher, Mrs Sealy would have been proud.

I held my paper bag with the two roasted corns close to my chest as I walked quickly back to the car. Excited, I impatiently tore the bag to get at the roasted corn and without hesitation bit into it. I chewed and contemplated the taste – it was smoky with hints of sweetness. It was not juicy but it was not so dry that you felt as if you were just eating the husk. I’d have to say that it is an acquired taste. My jaws got a bit of a work out by the time I’d finished eating the first cob.

Stove-top roasting of young corn. (Photo by Cynthia Nelson)

The following morning, like so many mornings, I opened the door of my refrigerator wondering what to make for breakfast. I spied the packet with two ears of young corn I’d bought the day before. Hmmmm, I thought, perhaps some roast corn for breakfast? I told you that I love corn!

Stove lit, corn on the burner, tongs in hand, I set about roasting my corn. Each ear took about a minute to roast. You have to rotate it and move it up and down so that the top, middle and bottom of the ear get roasted. There were popping sounds emanating from the corn as it roasted – some of the kernels bursting. That’s okay.

With two ears of hot roasted corn on my plate, I sat down to eat. The first bite was a revelation – biting into the corn was effortless. Soon my mouth was filled with plump kernels popping and spilling their sweet juices in my mouth. Mixed with the char from the roasting and the rich smoky flavour, this roasted corn elevated me to a realm of corn pleasure I had never known before… and as you know, I had had quite a bit of corn in various ways. The taste in comparison to the roasted corn I’d had the day before was, as they say, “cheese-to-chalk”. The texture and flavour were different, the appearance was different; the only similarity was the smokiness. I finished eating both ears of corn in no time, wishing there was another one or two. I’d have to join the roast corn vendor’s friend in saying, it’s the best way to eat corn.

Seriously, if you like corn but never had it roasted, try it. It will immediately become your go-to way to cook corn. It is fast and easy and as long as the corn is sweet, you won’t need to brush with butter, sprinkle salt, grate cheese or dress it with anything before serving and eating it. It is excellent as is when roasted. Take my word for it.

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