San Francisco and I will soon celebrate the five-year anniversary of what I’m pretty sure will be our life-long love affair. Over the years, we’ve really grown together. I’ve come to share her love for farm-fresh, locally grown produce and CSAs. We’ve shared many eating adventures, eating our way through a large percentage of the Indian restaurants in the city within a mere month, seeking out restaurants like Red’s Java House and Boulevard that couldn’t be more different but are each foodie landmarks in their own right, and making a Saturday morning ritual out of walking to the farmers market to peruse the goods while sipping Blue Bottle cappuccinos and munching on Downtown Bakery apple swirls and seasonal fruit galettes. We’ve become weekend hikers and city explorers, avid museum-goers, sometimes concert attendees, and periodic wine country visitors. But for all the shared enjoyment, we still can’t come together on one issue: the weather.
You see, San Francisco is whimsical, constantly changing her mind, wanting what she wants and needing to have it now. Quite honestly, she’s a little high maintenance when it comes to this particular issue. I, on the other hand, prefer the sun, though I don’t really mind the wind or the rain or even the fog. But the one thing that drives me crazy is her insistence on starting off with a windy, rainy mess of a day, then giving a brief glimpse of sun, and later dashing all hopes of good weather by issuing a complete downpour. And then fluctuating between beautiful sun and windy rain as often as some San Franciscans take coffee breaks.
Last week alternated between caught-in-a-downpour-without-protection and sweating-in-rubber-boots-and-turtlenecks moments, keeping my feet consistently wet and causing my appetite much confusion. After scoping out summery produce at the market and enjoying barbecued summer fare the weekend before, I allowed myself to get too excited about light, chilled, produce-centric meals.
But amidst the largely cold and rainy weather this past week, I found myself yearning to eat something warm and comforting, yet also summery. A serious dilemma, indeed. So thank goodness for corn.
Growing up, corn was generally boiled, buttered, salted, then eaten off the cob. But then braces ruined corn’s simplicity. Cutting corn off the cob and eating it with a fork just didn’t carry the same charm, so I quickly lost interest. Until today.
For some reason, I craved grilled corn at the same time that I day-dreamed about the creamy comfort of risotto. And then I put them together. With mushrooms. And green onions (leeks would do equally well). Add some Parmesan, and it was a heavenly little dish.
There are two tricks to this recipe. First, boiling the corn husk in water while you prep and saute the mushrooms and green onions creates a homemade corn “stock” that subtly flavors the risotto with the sweetness of corn. Second, while cooking the corn in this same “stock” before you begin adding the stock to the rice does impart added flavor to the stock, it’s essential that you not overcook the corn because it becomes tough and loses its flavor.
Follow these guidelines, and you’ll have an inexpensive, warm and filling yet fairly healthy dish graced with the delightful crunch of juicy, sweet corn, the savory earthiness of mushrooms and green onions, and the crisp saltiness of Parmesan. Perfect for those nights when San Francisco can’t decide whether she’s ready to put herself out there and embrace the joys of summer, or wants to remain mysterious yet awhile longer, brooding in the rain while wrapped in a cloak of fog.
Creamy Corm and Mushroom Risotto
To make this vegan, use olive oil instead of butter, and skip Parmesan altogether or sprinkle with nutritional yeast flakes instead.
2 corn on cobb, with husk
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 1/2 c. chanterelle, shiitake or oyster mushrooms, chopped
4 green onions, thinly sliced (including green part)
3 Tbsp. butter or olive oil, divided
1 c. Arborio rice or medium-grain white rice
¾ c. white wine
¼ c. freshly grated Parmesan
salt to taste
black pepper to taste
Boil 6 c. water over high heat. Add sugar, corn husk and corn on the cob. Boil for 8 min. Remove corn on cobb, cut corn off the cob, discard cob, and set cooked corn kernels aside. Turn heat to low on remaining corn husk and water, and maintain very low simmer to create a corn stock.
Meanwhile, saute mushrooms and green onions in 1 Tbsp. butter until mushrooms are cooked through and onions are slightly caramelized, about 7 minutes. Set aside.
In another medium saucepan, melt 1 Tbsp. butter. Add the rice and stir to coat in the butter. Continue toasting the rice, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes more. Add the wine and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add 1/2 cup of the simmering broth and 1/4 c. of corn, and stir until almost completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking the rice, adding the broth 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing each addition of broth to absorb before adding the next, until the rice is tender but still firm to the bite and the mixture is creamy, about 20 minutes total. Remove from the heat. Gently stir in the mushrooms, green onions, remaining corn kernels, 1 Tbsp. butter, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. Spoon the risotto into serving dishes. Serve immediately.