Let's face it, canned veggies don't exactly scream "gourmet." Canned corn, however, is a pretty great ingredient to keep in the pantry. The naturally sweet juiciness of corn isn't really affected by the canning process—it's tasty enough to eat straight from the can. Of course, you can elevate it with a little creativity … and spice.
The quickest, simplest way to jazz up canned corn is by adding seasoned butter, also known as compound butter. Make it yourself by kneading your favorite herbs or spices into a few tablespoons of butter, then roll it into a log and wrap it for the fridge or freezer. When mealtime rolls around, cut a coin-shaped disc of compound butter and let it melt over the warmed-up corn.
Southwestern-Style Corn Salad
Corn is a signature ingredient in many Southwestern dishes, usually in conjunction with black beans. To make a quick and tasty salad, rinse and drain the black beans and corn and add diced ripe tomatoes. Toss the mixture with avocado oil and lime juice, and mild chiles or hot sauce. Mix in the chopped white portions of green onions; then garnish with chopped cilantro and the green ends of the onions.
Southwestern-Style Hot Side Dish
The same basic ingredients can also be prepared as a hot side dish. Sweat onions and garlic gently in a skillet until translucent. Add diced chiles and tomatoes. Once they mixture is slightly softened, add the corn, black beans and cumin or chili powder. Stir until well-heated. Serve as a side dish with grilled meats or roasted chicken breast.
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Louisiana has a way of transforming ordinary ingredients into extraordinary dishes, and corn is no exception. A fine example is maque choux, which begins with onions and sweet red bell pepper sautéed until slightly softened. Add the corn and a small amount of heavy whipping cream. Season the mixture with fresh thyme and hot pepper sauce. Once the cream thickens, adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and more hot sauce.
Grilled corn is a summer favorite as a side dish or as an ingredient in salads and relishes. To simulate its flavor, preheat a heavy skillet and add a small amount of oil. Pour in well-drained corn and wait, without stirring, until the moisture evaporates and the kernels begin to sear and brown. Add a healthy pinch of smoked paprika or chipotle powder to mimic a smoky grilled flavor.
Caramelizing canned corn enhances its sweetness. Gently cook sliced onions in a small amount of oil or butter, then add canned corn. Bring up the heat gently, and sprinkle in a pinch of sugar. Stir until the corn browns and caramelizes. Serve hot with sweet baked squash or cold in a salad with tangy tomatoes.
Corn and Zucchini
Canned corn's sweetness goes well with zucchini or other summer squash. For a light and summery dish, sauté the squash with onions, garlic and corn until just tender. Alternatively, make a more autumnal version by slow cooking the onions and zucchini together until soft and well-caramelized, concentrating the flavors of both vegetables. Add the corn, and season the mixture with salt and pepper as it warms.
Corn oysters, which are spoon-sized fritters, are an old-fashioned side dish made with corn, separated eggs and flour. In a mixing bowl, crush the corn lightly with the back of a spoon to release some of its liquid. Add the egg yolks and flour to make a batter. Fold in the beaten egg whites. Spoon small portions of the corn fritters into a skillet of hot oil. Once golden, remove fritters from the skillet and drain excess oil on a paper towel. Serve with a dip or as a side dish with chicken or seafood.
Canned corn also makes for quick corn chowder in many different styles. Corn chowders are especially good with sweet shellfish like crab, lobster or scallops. Add a dash of hot sauce or a few slivers of fresh chiles to complement the richness of the soup.
Fred Decker is a trained chef, former restaurateur and prolific freelance writer, with a special interest in all things related to food and nutrition. His work has appeared online on major sites including Livestrong.com, WorkingMother.com and the websites of the Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle; and offline in Canada's Foodservice & Hospitality magazine and his local daily newspaper. He was educated at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology.