We’re getting better at using the green chilies we get in our CSA share each summer. At first, we’d almost always try to trade them for something else, taking them home only when the trading baskets had nothing of interest. At home, we’d sometimes cobble together something or another that would use the chilies, but often they’d end up in the freezer, with us hoping that we’d have some green chili revelation.
Part of the problem was that the chilies were all over the map, heat-wise. Sometimes they’d be so mild you’d hardly notice them in a dish, the next time we’d leave the table with our tongue practically blistered. We couldn’t figure out how much and when to use them.
This year, our chilies have stabilized. We’re not sure if it’s because of a change in growing location, a change in variety, better record-keeping on what’s planted where, or which peppers come from the “hot” field (our farmer grows a variety of heat-levels, and we often get to choose what we like best). That consistency has helped.
For example, we couldn’t imaging making this dish with “nuclear” green chilies, but, with mild chilies, it’s a no-brainer. We pretty much made up this recipe based on the idea of creamed corn and a way to use a green chili at the same time.
Fresh corn is the only way to go for creamed corn. As an aside, realize the goop they sell in cans as cream-style corn is not creamed corn. Look at the ingredients; we’ll bet there isn’t a drop of cream in it, and you need cream, real cream, for creamed corn. We try, but sometimes fail, to use organic cream when possible. The ingredients for organic cream are simple: cream. The ingredient list for non-organic cream has a variety of things meant to thicken, stabilize, and perhaps vulcanize, the cream. We don’t think you need any of that. Finally, the lime. Ideally, buy an organic lime. Again, we try, but sometimes they just aren’t available.
Procedure in detail:
Mise en Place. We suggest taking the time to put all your ducks in a row. Cut the corn off the cobs (save the cobs for corncob stock, of course). Zest the lime. You can mix the zest with the corn, as they go into the dish at the same time. If needed, roast the chili under the broiler until blackened, place in a bag to cool and hold the steam in, then peel off the skin and remove the seeds. Finally, dice.
Cook cumin seeds. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When it’s a bit foamy, add the cumin seeds and give them a stir. Continue frying, stirring, and generally having fun for a couple of minutes, until the cumin is fragrant.
Add corn, zest, and chilies. Stir in the corn, lime zest, and green chilies. If you wish, you can add a small sprinkle of salt and pepper at this point. We almost always do, just to get some flavor action going. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the corn starts to release some starches and begins to stick in the pan. Not a lot of sticking, just a bit.
Add cream and simmer. Pour in the heavy cream, stir, lower the heat to a nice simmer, and cover the pan. Let simmer for about 8 to 10 minutes. If you’re curious, you can lift the lid and give everything a stir from time to time, but not too often, as the steam helps the corn cook.
Add juice and season. With only one lime, we just squeeze in the juice as best we can, and let it go at that. You can use a juicer; it’ll be fine either way. Once the juice is in, give everything a good stir, taste, and season with additional salt and pepper. Serve immediately.
We love real creamed corn and try to make it at least once a season. This lime and chili version is a great attempt to change it up a bit. It has a nice lime taste, strong and bright, but not overpowering. The acid in the lime also seems to help thicken the cream, making for a richer-feeling dish. Using mild chilies is the way to go; you want that nice green vegetal flavor, but you don’t want the heat of the chilies to overpower everything. The cumin, well, it’s good in the corn, but, if you leave it out, no one will notice. And, of course, real creamed corn gets five stars.