Ears to you, summer corn!
June 19th, 2012
04:30 PM ET
Share this on:

Scorpacciata is a term that means consuming large amounts of a particular local ingredient while it's in season. It's a good way to eat. David LeFevre is the executive chef and co-owner of Manhattan Beach Post in Manhattan Beach, California.

Like Garrison Keillor said, “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn."

Sweet corn evokes memories of my summers on the East Coast with my grandfather and the wonderful meals that my grandmother would make with the corn that my grandfather and I had picked, shucked and cooked.

When corn season comes around, it is always an exciting time in the restaurant. We focus on a few key things when we are cooking with corn: the best quality product, a fresh product, minimal cooking time so as to not lose the fresh sweet flavor, proper technique, and making sure to remember it’s a fun, down-and-dirty experience to eat it.

First and foremost, it is important to start with a great ear of corn. Never buy corn that is refrigerated! That means you should check the quality at the market or store*. Peel back the top outer layers and silk of the cob to make sure it has even rows and no signs of bugs. You can even take a kernel off and taste it to see if it's sweet.

My grandfather taught me when I was young the importance of freshness with corn. First, he would put a huge pot of salted water on the stove and turn the gas on high. We would then get in his car and drive the half mile to my great uncle's to pick 12-18 ears of corn. On the drive back, I had to clean the ears in the car into a paper bag. Once we got home, my grandmother would have all of dinner ready - except for the corn.

david lefevre

The water was boiling by then and we would drop the corn in the water and cook it for 3-5 minutes, just until it was cooked through but not taking away any of the sweetness. It was awesome; he would eat that corn like a typewriter with kernels flying everywhere! I am not saying you have to do this, but you should cook and eat corn as soon as possible because it will be less sweet as time passes.

Remember: Corn tastes pretty darn good raw, you don’t need to cook the hell out of it. I prefer to cook corn until it is just cooked through, like most of my vegetables. If you are boiling it too long, you will lose flavor. If you grill it too long, it will get dry and starchy. If sauté it too long, it will become almost chewy.

Cooking technique is important because improper cooking can ruin even the greatest ear of corn. I prefer corn that is cooked with moisture. That can be done several ways: cooking it on the cob in seasoned boiling water, cutting the kernels off and lightly sautéing them with butter, or cooking the whole cob - leaves and all - over a live fire.

Lastly, do not worry about getting your hands dirty. Get in there and get butter and corn kernels up to your elbows. When I think of eating corn, I immediately envision butter on my cheeks and wet corn leaves on the back of my hands. It should be visceral and fun like ribs, fried chicken, or watermelon.

Wood-Fired Corn


  • 6 ears of corns, with stems
  • 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 6 Tablespoons Parmesan, grated
  • zest of 3 limes
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 4 Tablespoons cilantro, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • Butcher's string

Cooking Directions

  1. Peel back the outer leaves of the corn, but leave them intact with the stem of the cob.
  2. Remove all of the interior silk (Fun fact: there is one strand of silk for every kernel of corn!) and soak under water for 30 minutes.
  3. Combine the butter, Parmesan, lime zest, cayenne pepper, salt, cilantro and garlic in a food processor.
  4. Pulse the ingredients until they are well mixed, but not to blend them to a smooth purée.
  5. Take half the butter mixture and spread it evenly onto the 6 corn cobs, on the rows of corn kernels. Reserve the rest of the butter mixture for later.
  6. Turn back the outer leaves of the corn cob to cover the buttered rows of kernels and return it to its original shape.
  7. Using butcher's string, tie the ears so the outer leaves protect the kernels.
  8. Grill over a wood fire at medium heat for approximately 8-10 minutes or until the corn kernels are soft and tender.
  9. Cut the butcher's string and remove them while keeping the charred leaves intact..
  10. Place the cobs on a platter and serve to guests with the remaining butter mixture for seasoning, along with bibs and loads of napkins.
  11. Guests should be able to turn back the outer grilled leaves and eat the corn holding it by the stem.

*Editor's note: Not everyone agrees with the practice of opening ears at the market, arguing that exposure to the air shortens the the length of the corn's freshness. See if your market has a policy in place before you land in hot water with the management.

Previously - Simply ear-resistible: A grilled corn tutorial and Growing corn at home

Posted by:
Filed under: Bite • Corn • Ingredients • Make • Recipes • Scorpacciata • Summer Vegetables • Vegetables

soundoff (124 Responses)
  1. intheknow

    Corn is all GMO and will give you cancer, Don't eat it.

    June 19, 2013 at 11:46 am |
  2. Dirk Diggler

    I don’t know where you people come from. I don’t know if you test your products. Your quantity of your products. Your products are very delicious. Love your sausage for thirty something years. But I can’t take and feed a family of five on a little twelve ounce roll of sausage. I don’t mind paying more money for your sixteen ounce roll of sausage, but you don’t have it anymore. You’ve got a twelve ounce roll and you’ve got three men that weigh over two-hundred pounds a piece, a woman that’s a little plump Scotch girl, and a daughter who’s thirteen, and you’re going to try to take a twelve ounce roll of sausage and a couple of dozen eggs and feed that — it ain’t going to work — and I’m not going to purchase your product any more or ever again.

    June 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm |
  3. Enitech Intern


    June 20, 2012 at 10:37 am |
  4. Vegann

    Consuming anything other than a strictly vegan diet is nothing short of barbaric.

    June 20, 2012 at 10:14 am |
    • wsj

      Vegans are gross.

      June 20, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
      • yoder

        Maybe you aren't cooking them long enough.

        June 26, 2012 at 4:58 pm |
  5. That Guy

    Do we really need a special occasion to eat corn, though? I mean it's in all the food we eat already.

    June 20, 2012 at 9:44 am |
  6. azmark

    Made me think of a guy that used to take a backpacking stove & pot of water right to the cornfield and cook the corn WHILE STILL ON THE STALK. Talk about being addicted to fresh corn!

    June 20, 2012 at 9:42 am |
  7. jay Bloom

    I like to include corn with my s*xual activity. First, you clean the ears thoroughly. Next you cook them for about 6 minutes. Then apply a large amout of butter to them so they are nice and warm and slippery. Then take it into the bedroom where your lady is waiting. She then takes the corn and gently rubs the warm slippery ear of corn in a spot that gives her complete satisfaction. So, corn actually helps to have better s*x!!!

    June 20, 2012 at 9:39 am |
  8. Lars Babaganoosh

    Corn is good but not as good as poking around a fine chicks cornhole.

    June 20, 2012 at 9:34 am |
  9. Karaya

    "Sweet summer corn is better than sex" – Well, depends of how do you use it...

    June 20, 2012 at 9:31 am |
  10. bristoltwit palin... America's favorite dancing cow

    Bristol Palin uses corn on those days when she can't find her buttplug.

    June 20, 2012 at 9:25 am |
  11. Janey

    Sweet corn is good, but it's not as good as a few hours in the sack with my man. Nope.

    June 20, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  12. Leo

    Yes this is true.

    50% of Americans are so bad at sex that they prefer corn occassionally. I recommend getting in shape and putting in much more effort AND quit letting attractive guys always get their way, because that is why they don't care about finishing the job.

    June 20, 2012 at 9:07 am |
  13. gpark1018

    Being raised on the eastern half of Pennsylvania I have enormous experience with the delicious flavors of the summer crops. Jersey corn is at the top of the list. Sweet like candy dripping in butter and oh so reasonably priced. You can still buy a dozen ears of this wonderful food for around $3. But don't worry about the bugs, my dad used to say that the bugs only ate the sweetest of ears. So give it a good cleaning and don't worry 'bout it.

    Other summertime favorites should include tomato, peppers, cucumbers, cantelope and fresh herbs. These are the flavors of the season that are best enjoyed right from the ground to your mouth.

    This is heaven on earth...

    June 20, 2012 at 8:45 am |
    • gpark1018

      I almost forgot to mention Peaches. When purchased at a grocery store, peaches can be a high-risk fruit. Much of the product you will purchase will be flavorless or mealy.

      When picked from your own tree at the peak of freshness peaches are an orgasmic experience. I recall being a very small child with a peach tree in the back yard. The tree was certainly a symbol of both danger and wonderfulness. Danger in the fact that the tree attracted every bee in the area. Wonderfulness in the eating. I recall holding a peach in my very small hands, to me the size was that of a cantelope. Biting into this fuzzy delight was like sinking your head into a bucket of wet sweetness. One bit and your face was drenched. I haven't to this day had a peach like I had as a child.

      June 20, 2012 at 8:49 am |
  14. Floretta

    Where we live the market (Wegmans) buys local crops, including corn, but you can drive a couple of miles out into the county and pick your own, or get some at the farmers' market 3 days a week. When we were kids my dad had a friend with a farm and he would, from time to time, leave bushels of fresh corn on the back steps – or huge beefsteak tomatoes, zucchini, and, in August, tin buckets with gladiolas. We never knew if or when such bounty would appear but it was great.

    June 20, 2012 at 8:34 am |
  15. Old Coon

    If God made anything better than sex-he kept it for himself.
    It does depend upon the season of your life as to the priority it ranks.
    Although a little corn is good body fuel it is filed in a different book.

    June 20, 2012 at 8:16 am |
  16. Walter

    Sweet corn is better than sex? Well, obviously you're not doing it right if you think that.

    June 20, 2012 at 8:13 am |
    • J

      No, you're just not cooking it right!

      June 20, 2012 at 9:07 am |
    • Leo

      No J, that is just a idiotic notion all together.

      June 20, 2012 at 9:48 am |
  17. VladT

    I think we need 200 more "clever" comments about the Garrison Keilor quote, as opposed to about what this article is about. After all, if I haven't seen the same stupid joke, it's new to me!

    June 20, 2012 at 7:57 am |
  18. midnightrambler444

    well, it depends how you insert it. sometimes it's better than sex with a person.

    June 20, 2012 at 7:51 am |
  19. ljs2178

    Is Monsanto writing for you now, CNN?

    June 20, 2012 at 7:45 am |
    • Sue

      Yes, no mention of being sure your "quality product" is GMO free!! If you don't buy corn from an organic farmer, it's most likely grown by one of the big chemical companies, Monsanto being one of the most evil on this planet. What are the statistics, 90% is now GMO?? Something like that. In California, we have an initiative on November's ballot to require labeling of GMO products, it should be a no-brainer, but we will see.

      June 20, 2012 at 8:22 am |
      • BS

        First off, "chemical companies" don't don't grow food. Farmers do. And second, VIRTUALLY ALL of the food you eat has been genetically modified over centuries. The "as nature intended" versions of the food you eat are generally less appetizing, less nutritious, much smaller, harder to grow, etc.

        So now we've learned how to make modifications over a shorter timeframe. The food is still corn and unless you have actual scientific studies to prove that it is dangerous, please stop the hysteria.

        June 20, 2012 at 8:40 am |
        • gpark1018

          Agree with BS. In an attempt to eat foods as they were intended, I grew a crop of heirloom corn in my yard last year. Standing at 8 ft the growth was prolific, but the flavor was very starchy and to most would be considered "horse corn". And yes, I grow everything without the use of chemicals – (at least in the ground ;) )

          June 20, 2012 at 8:53 am |
        • Linda

          the problem is that the genetic modifcation of corn is to make it immune to herbicides.. the genetic change won't harm you, it's the fact that some (not all) farmers can spray all the corn down and then you are later consuming it. I don't get all crazy about it myself (just had fresh corn last night.. YUM!) but it would be nice if it were labeled..

          June 20, 2012 at 9:13 am |
      • Cornholio

        I agree with Sue, monocultures are simply not sustainable.

        Selective breeding (like the Indians did) has been around for thousands of years. GMO is completely different because they manipulate the corn on a cellular level in a lab. It is not selective breeding.

        We are creating stronger insects and throwing the evolutionary process off. There will be larger consequences in the future.

        June 20, 2012 at 9:28 am |
      • BS

        Corn is not going to be sprayed with an herbicide while the ear is growing, anyway. The plant by then is mature and not really competing with weeds. And by then the herbicide is gone. And even if it wasn't, the edible portion is protected by the husk.

        The herbicide itself is also very safe and breaks down very quickly in most circumstances.

        June 20, 2012 at 4:50 pm |
  20. hannah1

    EVERYTHING on this earth is better than sex!

    June 20, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  21. JerPell

    Ahhh...Sweet summer sex with a beautiful gal is always better than corn!

    June 20, 2012 at 7:26 am |
1 2
| Part of