Corn, Jalapeno and Mint Salad
Salad three is the most robust, perhaps the Porthos of the Mousequetaires…I will let you decide.
If you are lucky you have really good corn fresh from a farm stand nearby. Out here in Long Island, I eat it daily, and any leftovers go into making this salad. The thing about fresh corn is that it really should be eaten the day it was picked. The sugars begin to turn to starch almost immediately. Even day-old corn is not fresh enough. There are many stories about fanatics and how fresh corn should be. Some say that if you trip and fall on your way back from the corn field it isn’t as fresh as it could be. Of course the water should be boiling before you go out and pick it. I have even seen someone peel corn on the stalk, and dip it into boiling water in the field. The whole enterprise was set up in the field. It was pretty crazy. I always buy more corn that I am going to eat, so I can make this salad, or a corn/potato hash with poached eggs for breakfast the next day. See below for two methods of cooking corn.
Take the leftover cooked corn, you should have at least four or five ears, and with a sharp kitchen or chef’s knife cut the corn off the cob. An easy way to do this is to break the ear in half in the middle and put the broken side down on your cutting board. This gives you a wider base and is safer. Don’t worry if you leave some on it, it isn’t really a big deal. Put the kernels in a bowl, and separate any clusters with you hands so you have the kernels all separated. Add a few tablespoons of rice vinegar, and some olive oil. You are just dressing it lightly, not coating the corn; it is a seasoning not a dressing. Let the mixture sit. Meanwhile, take two or three jalapeno peppers and char them on your burner. Use tongs to turn them. If you have an electric stove, you have to be vigilant, or do them in a small cast iron pan. You are not charring them completely to remove the skin. The charring adds a little smokiness. That is what you want. When they have cooled, cut both ends off the peppers and slice it down one side. Carefully open up the pepper. Remove and discard the seeds. You should have a couple of recatangles of peppers. Stack them on top of each other and cut into a fine brunoise, one or two millimeters squares. Add this to the corn. Take a bunch of fresh mint, wash and then dry it. You can use a salad spinner or a tea towel. Separate the leaves from the stalks, and chop coarsely. Salt and black pepper to taste.. voila.
There are so many opinions on the BEST WAY to cook fresh corn, that I will not get into nor fuel the debate. Out on the eastern end of Long Island, the kernels are small, tight, and sweet. The corn cooks very quickly any way you do it. Here are two possibilities:
In a pasta pot, you know the kind with the strainer you can lift in and out, add water up to the strainer bottom. Put in a quarter cup of salt, and get it boiling. Add the shucked/desilked corn stem side down so they support each other like little spears pointing to the sky. Cover, and once the water is boiling again wait three minutes and get them out of there with tongs. The corn is ready.
In a wide and deep pot put about three or four inches of water. Add a tablespoon of kosher salt, grind some fresh back pepper, and add a quarter stick of sweet butter. Get it boiling and then add your shucked corn. It should be in one layer so all ears are semi-submerged. You may have to do it in batches, which is fine. Again, the magic number is three minutes. Serve immediately.