SERVES 6 TO 8
WHY THIS RECIPE WORKS: To make risotto that features truly vibrant corn flavor, we started by blending 3 cups of fresh corn kernels with a little water and the pulpy “milk” we scraped from the cobs to yield a supersweet, bright-tasting puree that infused the rice with corn flavor. Adding the puree near the end of cooking preserved its freshness. The puree also contributed extra liquid as well as naturally occurring cornstarch: The liquid loosened up the risotto to an appropriately fluid consistency (called “all’onda” in Italian), and the cornstarch gelled and acted like a sauce, making the dish especially creamy. Instead of adding the traditional white wine, which overwhelmed the corn’s flavor, we stirred in crème fraîche. The cultured dairy added much subtler acidity, and its flavor and richness underscored the risotto’s creamy, luxurious profile.
4 – 6 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs (4 cups), divided, cobs reserved 5½ cups hot water, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 teaspoons table salt
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon pepper
1½ cups Arborio rice
3 sprigs fresh thyme
1 ounce Parmesan cheese, grated (½ cup)
¼ cup crème fraîche
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
½ teaspoon lemon juice
- Stand 1 reserved corn cob on end on cutting board and firmly scrape downward with back of butter knife to remove any pulp remaining on cob. Repeat with remaining reserved cobs. Transfer pulp to blender. Add 3 cups corn kernels.
- Process corn and pulp on low speed until thick puree forms, about 30 seconds. With blender running, add ½ cup hot water. Increase speed to high and continue to process until smooth, about 3 minutes longer. Pour puree into fine-mesh strainer set over large liquid measuring cup or bowl. Using back of ladle or rubber spatula, push puree through strainer, extracting as much liquid as possible (you should have about 2 cups corn liquid). Discard solids.
- Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallot, salt, garlic, and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not browned, about 1 minute. Add rice and thyme sprigs and cook, stirring frequently, until grains are translucent around edges, 2 to 3 minutes.
- Stir in 4½ cups hot water. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until liquid is slightly thickened and rice is just al dente, 16 to 19 minutes, stirring twice during cooking.
- Add corn liquid and continue to cook, stirring gently and constantly, until risotto is creamy and thickened but not sticky, about 3 minutes longer (risotto will continue to thicken as it sits). Stir in Parmesan and remaining 1 cup corn kernels. Cover pot and let stand off heat for 5 minutes. Stir in crème fraîche, chives, and lemon juice. Discard thyme sprigs and season with salt and pepper to taste. Adjust consistency with remaining ½ cup hot water as needed. Serve immediately.
Photo Credit: Steve Klise