Sweet corn is a sure sign of summer in the Midwest. Luckily for local chefs, it grows in abundance and can be successfully employed in both sweet and savory dishes.
Maldaner’s Restaurant first opened in Springfield, Illinois, in 1884, but executive chef Michael Higgins still has a few surprises up his sleeve. A classic pork chop, for instance, is paired with cheesy sweet-corn bread pudding. Chunks of bread are tossed in butter and then mixed with Maldaner’s French onion soup, heavy cream, eggs, sweet corn, kale or Swiss chard and a little thyme and sage. The best part? “We also put a good amount of Gruyère cheese in that, and half that amount of Parmesan,” Higgins says. “That gives it that nutty Gruyère flavor.” He also serves sweet-corn pancakes made with local corn that has a nice pop to it. “It’s not too starchy, and usually I know the farmers, too,” Higgins says. The pancakes are smaller – maybe five to a plate – and are served with creamed chicken. “It’s almost like making a Blizzard,” Higgins says. “You put enough corn in there to where the batter just holds together.”
222 S. Sixth St., Springfield, Illinois, maldaners.com
Ices Plain & Fancy
During sultry St. Louis summer evenings, the line at Ices Plain & Fancy runs out the door. Fans drive from across the metro area for a taste of the cool, flash-churned ice cream made with liquid nitrogen and fresh ingredients. One of the first flavors served at Ices when the shop opened in the Shaw neighborhood in 2014 was sweet corn made with fermented honey; it’s on the menu again this August. “The local Missouri corn is just really sweet, so it lends itself pretty well to that – it’s almost like creamed corn [in flavor],” says co-owner Max Crask. The corn flavor comes through, but it doesn’t feel like eating corn on the cob, according to Crask; it’s definitely not a savory flavor. “It’s just something fun for us to work with, and it grows really well across the river in Illinois and in Missouri, and we like to work with anything like that. I think people order it because they want to try something out of the ordinary.”
2256 S. 39th St., St. Louis, Missouri, icesplainandfancy.com
Brown & Loe
For co-executive chef James Paul of Brown & Loe, creamed sweet corn is the perfect counterpoint to crispy trout. Freshly shucked sweet corn – often from Liberty Produce or neighboring City Market – is simmered with cream, shallots, fresh thyme, milk and a bit of half-and-half. Then it’s puréed and simmered with more raw corn kernels and leftover ears for more depth of flavor. The trout is dusted with blue cornmeal dredge and pan-fried, and then served with the corn, plus a housemade Peppadew jam, sautéed arugula and sunflower seeds. “The trout itself has some flavor, but it’s kind of a blank canvas; trout to me just screams comfort food,” Paul says. “The sweetness of the jam and the spiciness of the arugula cut through the richness of the corn, and then you get the salty, crunchy sunflower seeds to even the whole thing out.” Brown & Loe is celebrating its one-year anniversary this month, and Paul says the trout is one of its most popular dishes, so it won’t be disappearing any time soon.
429 Walnut St., Kansas City, Missouri, brownandloe.com