Corn: Crunchy, sweet and best when it's torn from a stalk "as high as an elephant's eye," then steamed for just a few minutes and eaten naturally. No salt. No butter. No cheese. No nothing. Just corn. Natives in the Americas have been enjoying corn that way for centuries and introduced it to the earliest settlers. Even Christopher Columbus noted corn in one of his journals as "maize," a staple of the indigenous people. But it took settlers from England to elevate the simple cob of corn into a pudding, setting the path for creative corn casserole recipes that we've enjoyed these past few hundred years.
From Cob to Casserole
Shaving the kernels from the corn cob releases the corn milk, which originally served as a thickening agent early in corn history. Simmered over a fire and swimming in the milk plus water, the corn was tenderized as the corn milk thickened. Rich in starch, the milk and water blended, creating a custard-y consistency.
It took settlers from England, who were taught the wonders of corn from the natives in the Americas, to create their own version of the pudding. They liked their puddings rich and creamy, so the addition of eggs and cream became a staple for their traditional custard. By adding a bit of butter, the corn pudding –English style – was created. Gordon Ramsay, the popular television chef from England, comes by his penchant for experimentation naturally.
Elevating the Corn Casserole
Not content to let a good dish simply be a good dish, everyone from home cooks to Michelin-starred chefs has a take on the corn casserole. Pastel de choclo, a traditional dish in Chile, is made by adding beef and onions to their local, large-kernel Andean corn. The Italians, who never heard of corn until Christopher Columbus brought it back to Europe in the 1500s, add Parmesan cheese to their corn casseroles.
But it's the Southerners in the United States who have elevated the corn casserole to an art form. Risen to the height of perfection and proudly presented on holiday dinner tables, the corn casserole is one of the most popular dishes served to friends and family.
Recipes range from simple to complex, using boxed ingredients or fresh. Personal tastes influence the outcome, with everything from jalapeno peppers, onions, red peppers, bacon, sour cream, cheese and cracker crumbs for the topping finding their way into the casserole dish. But the easiest recipe, and one that serves as a starter for your experimentation, begins with just six ingredients.
Easy Corn Casserole Recipe
Total Time: 70 minutes | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Serves: 6
- 1 (14-ounce) can of creamed corn
- 1 (15-ounce) can of whole kernel corn with the liquid
- 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
- 8 ounces sour cream
- 2 eggs, slightly beaten
- 1 (8-ounce) box Jiffy corn muffin mix
No matter what brand of corn muffin mix you buy, check the sell-by date. If it's been on the shelf too long, the baking soda will have lost its strength and your casserole won't rise.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Using a bit of the butter, rub the bottom and sides of a 2-quart baking dish.
- In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients except the corn muffin mix and stir to blend.
- Add corn muffin mix and stir.
- Pour into the baking dish. Bake for 60 minutes or until the top is golden and a skewer inserted into the center of the casserole comes out clean.
The Casserole Becomes a Souffle
Only a few changes to the recipe are needed to turn your casserole into a show-stopping souffle.
- Separate the two eggs.
- Add the yolks to the mixture.
- Whip the whites until they are stiff, but don't over whip.
- Once you've blended all the ingredients, including the muffin mix, gently add the whipped egg whites and stir until just blended. Don't overdo it. Keep the air in the mixture.
- Pour into a souffle dish and bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Remember, don't peek!