Creamed corn is a staple dish on family tables all over Appalachia. I love creamed corn – Edward Lee, Chapter 6: Slaw Dogs and Pepperoni Rolls, Buttermilk Graffiti, p.119
Yes!! While it’s not exactly a staple on our table – corn season is just too short – I love creamed corn too!
We’re still working our way through Edward Lee’s book, Buttermilk Graffiti. But “working” is really not the correct word at all. We’re savouring it. We don’t want to miss any of the nuances.
Ronni takes me deep into the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. We drive along a winding freeway of wild thickets and woodland, without seeing another car for almost an hour. Suddenly, we come to a historic landmark sign telling us we have arrived in Helvetia
The foods of Appalachia are robust and satisfying but not flashy. Much like the people I met on my journey, the food is humble. To try to elevate it would be disingenous; it shouldn’t be fussed over too much.
[T]his nontraditional version [of creamed corn] combines the bracing sweetness of corn with the salty richness of miso. The miso flavor isn’t pronounced; there’s just enough to add some depth and umami.
– Edward Lee, Chapter 6: Slaw Dogs and Pepperoni Rolls, p.111, 117, 119
Miso in creamed corn!! Red miso, to be exact: 3 tablespoons to go with 5 ears of fresh corn.
Our first reaction was “Really??”
But then, later that day while we were out on our bikes, we passed T&T, the giant Asian supermarket and decided we had to get some miso to go with the last two ears of Ontario corn in the fridge.
There were several different kinds of Miso in the refrigerated area of the supermarket. A well-dressed woman (non-Asian) was standing in front of the shelf, carefully examining each container, murmuring “wow, high in salt”, or “this looks okay”, or “what should I get? Red, yellow, or white…”
We started chatting about Miso – she said she was getting it to make soup and was very interested that we were getting it NOT for soup. She also made a note of the title of Edward Lee’s book, then finally made her choice to get organic red miso and off she went down the long long aisle, waving a cheery goodbye.
As for us, we chose red miso, because that’s what Edward Lee suggested to use for his creamed corn.
Aside from corn and red miso, Edward Lee’s creamed corn recipe also calls for quite a lot of heavy cream and an equal “quite a lot” of chicken stock, as well as calling for squeezing the corn cobs to get every last bit of starch. To make the corn even creamier, after cooking it for a time in plenty of butter, Lee suggests putting a portion of the corn into a blender before adding it with the miso and copious amounts of cream and stock back into the dish to simmer until done.
All this seems like way too much work. Not to mention too much cream and stock. We decided we just wanted to get a sense of the flavour of the corn and miso.
T chose to simple cut the kernels off the cob – nice and close to the cob – and dump them into a pot with cold butter and miso.
T added about equal parts of unsalted butter and miso to the corn and then cooked it all until the butter had melted. We decided to grind on a little black pepper.
The resulting dish was delicious!
But. Ha! I think we may have added a little bit too much miso; its flavour easily overpowered the delicate sweetness of the corn. Next time (which will probably be next summer because the corn at the market now is looking rather aged, with big fat starchy kernels), as delicious as it is, we’ll add considerably less miso.
Take a dish you know well, a dish you’ve eaten a hundred times. Now change just one ingredient. Would you still recognize the dish? What if that one ingredient change everything you thought was familiar? What if the new taste blew your mind?
Take a dish and change one ingredient. Is it still the same dish?
-Edward Lee, ‘Chapter 3: The Unfamiliar Noodle’, Buttermilk Graffiti, 46, 59
I wonder if Edward Lee would recognize the corn we made as his creamed corn. Is our take the same dish?
I also wonder if Edward Lee would taste this version and decide that it is not only much more thrilling, but closer to the intent of Appalachian cooking: “robust and satisfying but not flashy”, “humble”, and not “fussed over too much”.
Debra, Deb, Simona and Claudia are food-loving friends who also love to read. They take turns hosting this bimonthly book club/blog event that “focuses on a different foodcentric book each round”. The goal of the club is to discuss the chosen book and cook something inspired by reading it.
Remember that anyone can participate in Cook the Books: simply pick up a copy of the selection from your local bookstore or library, take inspiration from said reading, cook and post the inspired dish. We look forward to having you read and cook along with in this selection period and beyond. New participants are always welcomed with open arms!
-Simona, Cook the Books, June/July selection: Blood, Bones & Butter
Buttermilk Graffiti by Edward Lee […] Lee traces his own food comforts and influences. Along the way he establishes connections for all Americans as he travels the country looking for a national cuisine — “that tension between two vastly different cultures creates something new” […] Deadline for contributing your post is Friday, May 31, 2019.
– Debra, Cook the Books, Buttermilk Graffiti: April/May Announcement
Please note that Deb’s selection of “Buttermilk Graffiti” by Edward Lee was for Cook the Books in April/May 2019, which is long long past.
This excellent book is still our current “read-aloud” book….
Note that not everyone is impossibly late for April/May 2019 Cook the Books though; here is the Cook the Books round-up for April/May 2019: Buttermilk Graffiti roundup
For more information about Cook the Books, please see:
Edward Lee wrote about miso in his earlier book, “Smoke and Pickles”. This will definitely be one of our read-aloud books later this year. We really like Edward Lee’s thoughtful style of writing.
Miso is found everywhere is Asian cookery. In China, it is called doujiang; Koreans call it daen-jang. […] Like many of the Asian condiments I use on a daily basis, miso adds a haunting umami element to anything it touches. There are many kinds, but the most important distinction is between light or white (shiro) miso and dark or red (aka) miso. White miso, which is actually a blond color, is very delicate, and I use it for recipes that are made with little or no heat, like vinaigrettes, dressings and light broths. I use red miso, which is a dark mahogany color, for stew and soups that call for long cooking times or glazes that will be cooked under a hot broiler or over high heat. Don’t worry about the brand […] — just remember this distinction, and you’ll be fine when shopping for miso.
– Edward Lee, ‘Birds and Bluegrass’, Smoke and Pickles: Recipes and Stories from a New Southern Kitchen,
The other night, we suddenly had an urge for popcorn. Instead of salting it, T added miso to his bowl. It was good… but I think the grated Romano cheese and butter in my bowl was better.
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» Corn on the cob