Zip it!

Posted by Anita on 07.30.07 12:48 PM

(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reservedIn my new favorite cookbook, Big Small Plates, author Cindy Pawlcyn names her savory corn custard as a brunch favorite. I have no problem believing that this dish flies out of the kitchen, no matter the time of day: We served this recipe a recent dinner party, and our guests all but licked the plates.

The first time I made the custard, I used a standard box grater to remove the kernels from their cobs — a messy proposition when dealing with super-fresh farmer’s market corn that spurts milk everywhere. After reading about the Kuhn-Rikon corn zipper in a magazine, I decided to invest in one of these $12 gadgets. Remarkably, it works just like its namesake: Wedge its little crown-shaped tooth at the end of an ear, give a gentle tug, and watch in amazement as two rows of corn unzip right off the cob in perfect alignment.

Does the corn zipper really make this custard better? Given that you end up whizzing the corn to a puree, the answer’s a definite NO. But it certainly makes the prep a lot less messy, and far more amusing. I’d even go so far to say that the corn zipper’s a must-have item if you’re you’re making corn relish or succotash, or any other recipe where whole kernels are a plus, or even if you’re cooking for anyone who loves fresh corn but can’t handle the cob. Yes, Alton acolytes, it’s a unitasker. (But then again, so’s my citrus squeezer, and you’d have to pry it out of my cold, dead hands.) On the plus side: It doesn’t take up much room in the prep drawer, and it’s so freaking cheerful that you just have to smile back — who could resist its happy little face? And as a side benefit, once you own a corn zipper, you’ll have no trouble deciding what to enter into a crazy kitchen gadget event (EDIT: like the one Kathy’s hosting here).

Like other Big Small Plates recipes we’ve tried, this one yields a serious mismatch of sauce and custard quantities. I doubled the sauce on my second attempt, and still ended up with just enough to garnish six servings (albeit rather generously). Either prepare for scantier saucing, or consider doubling the recipe — or at least the stock portion — yet again.

(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved(c)2007 AEC  ** ALL rights reserved

Sweet-Corn Custard with Mushroom Sauce
– adapted from Big Small Plates

3 ears fresh corn (to yield 2 cups kernels)
2 cups heavy cream
4 large eggs
1 cup (4oz) loosely packed grated Monterey Jack cheese
1 T Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

4 cups rich stock (beef, chicken, or veal)
2-4 T olive oil
1 pound mushrooms, stemmed and quartered
2 T butter
2 shallots, minced fine
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Minced fresh chives, for garnish

Using a corn zipper or the coarse side of a box grater, cut the kernels off the cobs. Heat the corn and cream together in a medium saucepan. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook 5 to 10 minutes until the corn is tender. Cool slightly, then puree with a stick blender. (If using a traditional blender, let mixture cool further.) Strain the puree through a fine sieve into a large mixing bowl, pressing well to extract all the liquids. Add the eggs, cheese, mustard, salt, and pepper to the bowl, and stir gently to combine.

Preheat the oven to 325F, and butter eight 6-to-8 oz ramekins. Measure an equal amount of custard into each dish, leaving at least 1/4-inch of headspace. Place the ramekins in a large, shallow pan and carefully fill the pan with enough hot water to reach 2/3 of the way up the side of the ramekins. Cover the pan with aluminum foil, punching a few holes in the top with a skewer, to help prevent condensation drips. Bake the custards in the water bath until just set; start checking at 45 minutes. (The time will depend on the thickness and size of your ramekins, and the size of your water bath.)

To make the sauce, rapidly simmer the stock in a saute pan over high heat until reduced to a sauce-like consistency. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in another saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring, until they have released their juices and the pan has dried out a bit, 10 to 15 minutes. When the mushrooms are done, salt them to taste and increase the heat to high and pour the stock into the mushroom pan. Bring the stock to a simmer and cook 2 minutes. Just before serving, add the butter and shallots, swirling into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Turn the custards onto individual plates. Pour some sauce over or around each of the warm custards and garnish with the minced chives.

Note: Custards can be kept warm in their water bath for about 20 minutes; if you need to wait longer, refrigerate and gently reheat in a water bath for 10 to 15 minutes before serving. The texture will suffer slightly, but the taste is undiminished.

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Comment by jen maiser

I am one of those people who can’t handle eating corn-on-the-cob except when it’s absolutely required. I have been eying this gadget since you put it on flickr a couple days ago.

Posted on 07.30.07 at 1:57PM

Comment by JEP

The recipe sounds so rich & delicious!

Posted on 07.30.07 at 5:22PM

Comment by Rick

Sounds tasty! I’m am happy owner of Big Small Plates too.

Posted on 07.31.07 at 6:13AM

Comment by Steve Sando

I love a gadget, but have you tried just using a paring knife? I’ve had other corn gadgets but I always end up going back to a good knife, starting in the middle and working my way down, then flipping the ear and doing the other half.
But as I said, I love a gadget.

Posted on 07.31.07 at 8:08AM

Comment by Anita

Jen: Glad to be of service!

JEP: Thanks! It’s definitely not diet food, but it’s also not heavy in the least.

Rick: We’ve loved everything we’ve made from BSP so far; I’m mildly perturbed by the scaling issues, but I guess that just means I have to try out recipes before I make them for company. Oh, boo hoo. ;)

Steve: I have used a knife in the past, but I always find that the row of kernels in the center of the blade gets cut off cleanly, while the two or three rows on the edge get mangled, or at least not fully removed. A knife is a fine kernel-removal tool for creamed corn or corn custard — as is the box grater — but if you’re in need of full kernels, I can safely say the corn zipper is worth the $12 :)

Posted on 07.31.07 at 9:52AM

Comment by sairuh

I wouldn’t have thought of combining a rich mushroom sauce with a corn custard, but this sounds really good! Honestly, I wish savory custards were more popular (/me dreams of chawan mushi…).

The cute smile on the zipper nearly killed me. Would be an excellent candidate for, except that they tend towards non-human animal subjects. ;-)

Posted on 07.31.07 at 10:26PM

Comment by Mom

Looks and sounds yummy!! Now I’m hungry! Love from Calgary library….

Posted on 08.01.07 at 5:53PM

Comment by lee

I so want one of these but I’ve been doing large amounts of corn lately (enough for 23 16oz. jars of corn relish). Maybe I’ll get one just to put its cheery self near me as I start shucking the next 6 dozen!

Posted on 08.01.07 at 7:22PM

Pingback by Not Eating Out in New York » Blog Archive » The Craziest of Kitchen Gadgets Go to Task: Blogging Event Round-Up

[...] Anita, one half of the “couple of San Francisco food dorks” of the blog Married… with Dinner used this completely beguiling little guy to make a recipe for Sweet-Corn Custard with Mushroom Sauce. He’s a corn zipper (for stripping kernels clean off the cob), and it’s love at first sight for me! [...]

Posted on 08.04.07 at 2:42PM

Comment by Hendria

When cutting corn off the cob…use you electric knife. It works great….Give it a try next time.

Posted on 01.06.08 at 6:30AM

Comment by Curious Buyer

Where do I buy the Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper? Is it available in Calgary?

Posted on 08.05.08 at 9:08PM

Comment by Chez US


This sounds fantastic! I love the combo – corn & mushrooms. Great autumn/winter time meal, makes me want to hunker down with my man and eat a great meal!

Posted on 08.21.08 at 5:48PM

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