Alex Eats: Fresh Corn

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Every week, Alex Guarnaschelli, host of Alex's Day Off , shares with readers what she's eating -- whether it's from the farmers' market or fresh off the boat, she'll have you craving everything from comfort food to seasonal produce.

It’s hard to beat the taste of corn bought from a roadside stand -- just driving past a cornfield makes my mouth water. I imagine taking the corn off the grill and watching the butter melt over the kernels -- the salt, the first bite. Nothing beats it. Here are some of my favorite tips for purchasing and preparing corn:

1. I always pick corn where the husk clings tightly to the cob; they are the most freshly picked. Similarly, I avoid buying cleaned corn wrapped in plastic or trimmed on both ends for “easier” eating. They tend to be dry and less fresh. The more "whole" you buy your vegetables, the better.

2. If you're roasting the corn in the oven or cooking directly on the grill, leave the ears encased in their husks, rotating their position as they cook for 15-20 minutes. This method gently steams the corn, leaving it juicy and imparting a light smoky flavor.

3. If husking, remove the outer leaves and the inner layer of “silk." Then wipe the corn with a damp cloth to remove any stubborn excess strands that may cling directly to the kernels.

4. If boiling, match the amount of salt added to the cooking water with brown sugar to intensify the taste.

5. If corn has been intensely charred, it's great to use in a homemade salsa or salad. Hold a shucked ear of corn upright on a flat surface and slice the kernels off in rows. Drop them into a preheated sauté pan and toast them dry until they start to darken on all sides, 2-3 minutes. Add a touch of butter, a pinch of sugar, salt and cracked black pepper to finish. Remove from the heat.

6. Don't let the cleaned cobs go to waste -- make a corn stock. Simply arrange them in the bottom of a pot and cover with water and a touch of salt. Simmer for 10 minutes then remove from the heat, strain and reserve the liquid. Discard the cobs. Use as a base for a corn soup, rice pilaf or sauce. It freezes nicely, too.

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