Grilled Corn on the Cob with Maple Cayenne Butter
Summer’s fresh corn has a natural sweetness, which is nicely enhanced by the smoky flavors imparted by the grill. Maple syrup boasts a complementary sweetness and a slight smokiness that serves as a counterpoint to the spicy cayenne in the buttery topping.
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) (4 oz./125 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- 2 Tbs. maple syrup
- 1 lemon
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Pinch of freshly ground black pepper, plus more, to taste
- 4 ears of corn
- Canola oil for grilling
- Thinly slivered fresh basil for garnish (optional)
In a bowl, mix together the butter and maple syrup with a wooden spoon. Finely grate the zest from the lemon into the bowl. Halve the lemon and squeeze the juice from one half into the bowl (reserve the remaining half for another use). Mix well. Add a pinch each of cayenne pepper, salt and black pepper, and stir to blend. Spoon the butter mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and form it into a log about 1 1/2 inches (4 cm) in diameter. Wrap the log tightly with the plastic wrap and refrigerate it until firm, about 1 hour.
Working with 1 ear of corn at a time, carefully pull back the husks, leaving them attached at the stem end. Remove and discard the silk, then replace the husks around the ear. In a rectangular baking dish, soak the ears in cold water to cover for at least 20 minutes and then drain.
About 15 minutes before you plan to serve the corn, prepare a hot fire in a grill.
Carefully pull back the husks from each ear of corn and, using paper towels, dry off the kernels. Rub each ear evenly with oil and sprinkle lightly all over with salt. Replace the husks.
Place the corn in a mesh grill griddle or roasting pan. Place the pan on the grill grate and cook, rotating the ears a quarter turn every 3 to 4 minutes, until the husks are browned and the kernels are just tender, 12 to 14 minutes.
Transfer the corn ears to a warmed serving platter. Pull back the husks and remove or, if desired, leave on for a more rustic effect. Cut slices of butter from the log and place 1 slice on top of each ear, letting the butter melt and then spreading it over the corn, coating all sides. Garnish with basil and serve immediately, passing the remaining maple-cayenne butter at the table. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma New Flavors for Vegetables, by Jodi Liano (Oxmoor House, 2008)