Of all the nascent food trends we see simmering, our favorite might be this one: root-to-stalk cooking. The name is a riff on the preeminent nose-to-tail craze, which encourages us to eat all parts of the animal. Well, the same waste not-want not philosophy is behind this vegetable-centric movement, which showcases ways to use whole produce, including peels, stems, seeds, and all the other stuff that usually winds up in your compost pile. But how, exactly, does one fit apple cores chard stalks into their meals while keeping them, well, edible? San Francisco food writer Tara Duggan answers that question with her brand new cookbook, Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable. Its more than 65 recipes include a salsa verde made with carrot tops, potato skin-bacon fat chips, and these summery corn puddings, which utilize every bit of the ear down to the cobs and husks.
Corn-Pancetta Puddings in Corn Husk Baskets
by Tara Duggan, Root-to-Stalk Cooking
These savory puddings work as a brunch or side dish, with their corn husk “handles” making them look like cheerful sunflowers. After you remove the kernels from the cobs, you scrape the corn milk from the cobs with the back of a knife, then simmer the cobs in cream and milk. This mixture forms the base of the pudding batter, which you pour into corn husk–lined muffin tins. The result is part corn muffin, part soufflé.
Makes 18 small puddings; serves 6 to 9
2 ears of corn
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup milk
3 ounces pancetta, diced small
4 large eggs
1/4 cup unsalted butter or a mixture of butter and rendered pancetta fat, melted and cooled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup polenta or cornmeal
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of freshly ground pepper
Pinch of cayenne
1/2 cup seeded and diced tomatoes
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12-cup muffin tin plus 6 cups of an additional tin.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Trim the leafy tops of the husks from each ear of corn and slice through the bottom of the cob to more easily remove the husks. Discarding the tougher outer husks, trim off any extra curved part of the more tender inner husks, and tear the husks in half lengthwise until you have 36 strips about the width of your muffin tins. Blanch in the water until softened, 5 minutes. Drain and let cool.
3. Holding the cobs upright on a cutting board, cut the kernels off the cobs, then measure out 1 cup; reserve any extra kernels for another use. Place the cream and milk in a small saucepan, and use the back of a knife to scrape any remaining corn and juices from the cobs into the pan. Place the cobs in the pan (break them in half to fit), bring to a simmer, and simmer gently for 15 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan.
4. Place the pancetta in a small sauté pan over medium heat and brown until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels (save the remaining fat to replace of some of the butter, if you like).
5. Before mixing the batter, press a strip of corn husk into a muffin tin, and top with a thinner strip to make a cross pattern with the ends sticking up. Repeat to use the remaining husks (if the husks pop out of place, just poke them down again) until you have lined 18 cups.
6. Remove the cobs from the cooled cream mixture and place the mixture in a large bowl with the eggs, butter, flour, polenta, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper, and cayenne. Fold in the 1 cup corn kernels, tomatoes, and half of the pancetta, then pour into the prepared baskets. Top with the remaining pancetta and bake until firm, about 20 minutes. Use a narrow silicone spatula or dinner knife to remove the puddings from the pan and serve immediately, or slightly warm.
Reprinted with permission from Root-to-Stalk Cooking, by Tara Duggan, copyright 2013. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.