I blame it on my upbringing in Illinois, otherwise known as the land of corn, but I get excited when fresh, sweet corn comes into season. I was delighted when our first corn of the year from our CSA appeared a couple of weeks ago. Oddly enough, the recipe I couldn’t wait to use it in was actually intended for frozen corn. It was Corn Queso Fundido from the December issue of Food and Wine, and the purpose of the dish was to use some produce that had been frozen at the peak of the season. I took a different approach, but the result would be great either way. Not only did I have the first-of-season corn, I also had the first locally-grown chiles from Springdale Farm that I’d spotted this year. This is a fun queso for dipping chips, but I made more of a meal of it by dipping grilled zucchini and chunks of grilled chicken as well. The queso can be cooked entirely on top of the stove as instructed in the recipe, or you can go for some browning on the cheese as I did by popping it under the broiler for a couple of minutes. Local fresh corn and chiles are a great start to our summer produce.
I started by cutting the kernels from a couple of ears of corn. Half of the corn was pureed in the blender with some water. The recipe suggests straining the puree, but I didn’t. Meanwhile, I roasted a poblano and some jalapeno chiles. When cool, the charred skin was removed, and the chiles were stemmed, seeded, and chopped. The chopped chiles were cooked with minced onion in a skillet, and the remaining corn was added. It’s important to cook the vegetables until slightly browned and any water has evaporated. Next, minced garlic was added and cooked for a couple of minutes. The corn puree was then added and allowed to reduce for a few minutes. Shredded Monterey Jack cheese was stirred into the vegetable mix until melted. At this point, I transferred the queso to a baking dish and placed it under the broiler until browned. I garnished with sliced jalapenos and chopped cilantro and served it with baked tortilla chips. I’ve developed the habit of cutting corn tortillas into long, skinny wedges for baking after learning the technique in a Rick Bayless book. The tortilla pieces were brushed with grape seed oil and seasoned with salt, ancho powder, and cayenne.
Now that I’ve looked back at this recipe from December, I should take a lesson from it and freeze some of our lovely, fresh corn right now. It always disappears so quickly when we have it, I usually don’t even have a chance to think about preserving some for later in the year. Whether you cut it from fresh ears or pull it from the freezer, you have to try this spicy queso with corn.