Tuesday, August 23, 2011

sweet corn crema

Here's the hilarious thing. The two main components of this dish are corn and blackberries. We are not far from Zellwood, which has a hugemongous corn festival each year. And I had been hearing about a farm north of Tampa that was growing blackberries.

So, since I hadn't grown either of these things myself, I thought I'd go do U-pick's for both ingredients. Possibly while wearing overalls and a straw hat. And one of those long pieces of grass sticking between my teeth.

OK, that wasn't the hilarious part. But this is: The season for U-pick corn ends two weeks before the season for U-pick blackberries starts.

The more you know.

I decided to do this dish because it was blackberry season. Which, at the U-pick farm I went to, lasts like three weeks. So there was urgency. That's when I went looking for U-pick corn in Zellwood, or where ever, and learned that the season had just closed.

Imagine my despair.

But it was OK. I got up way, way earlier than usual on a Saturday and drove up to north Tampa and started picking blackberries.

Did I mention I'm allergic to blackberries?

Actually, I didn't know that was true. And it isn't an absolute. I knew I was allergic to raspberries. Even handling them makes me break out, and it gets worse if I eat them. And blackberries sort of look like raspberries, right? But with me and a lot of fruits, if they aren't pristinely fresh, it's a problem. (It's a mold thing, and fruits grow mold long, long before you see it. It's no big deal for most people. But it makes me light up like a Christmas tree.)

But with many fruits, if they are really, really fresh, they don't present a problem for me. And I figured if I'm pulling them off the vine and making them that night, that's pretty much as good a chance at success as I had.

I picked up the corn at a farm stand near the blackberry field -- so apparently corn was growing somewhere -- and headed home.

The berries just got macerated in some sugar and berry flavored booze.

The corn, which I didn't take a photo of, got stripped from the cob and turned into a custard. Excuse me … crema.

It got heated up in some cream with some vanilla, then with egg yolks.

Then it went into my soup/tea/crema cups, and into a water bath in the oven, and I cooked them for the prescribed 40 minutes. At which point they were pretty much still soup. So I left them in 10 more minutes. Still soup. Then I checked them every 5 minutes until they set up. I think it was a total of about 20 more minutes. At that point, they still looked soft, but they looked set enough that maybe a night in the fridge would work wonders.

It did.

Before serving, made some cornmeal zeppole, which are fried, making them delicious. It was like deep-fried cornbread. Win.

When we had this, it was mentioned that it tasted like buttered corn pudding, which I totally agreed with. It wasn't until the next day that I realized something funny about that: There is no butter in the dish. So I had another one that night, to see if I still thought that it tasted like buttered corn, now that I was aware of the lack of butter … and it still did. I have no idea. Supposing that the cream and the salt acted in concert to trick us into thinking butter.

This was not one of the desserts we got hit with when we went to Babbo in May. But pastry chef Gina DePalma recently tweeted that this was one of Mario's favorite desserts, and it was season in New York, so it was back on the menu. So if you're in New York, and can get a Babbo rez, the sweet corn crema comes highly recommended.

Allergy update: The blackberries made me a little itchy. But no big deal. I've dealt with worse. But I don't so much want them again. I have some more in the freezer, where they won't grow mold. We'll see.

Up next: spaghetti with sweet 100 tomatoes

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