Thursday, September 17, 2009

Just Fritterin'

For years, my family had the same exact meal for Christmas and Easter as we did at Thanks-giving.

This was not due to any lack of imagination on the part of the women who cooked it -- Nana, my grandmother, and her two daughters, my mother and aunt. Rather, it was to insure that no one got an easier meal to prepare than anyone else. While all three were able cooks, none was particularly eager to spend time in the kitchen. (My mother was an incredibly enthusiastic proponent of convenience food in all forms.)

That's why I see the corn fritters that Nana made every year for my birthday as a true labor of love. And, though there have been a few of improvements to the recipe over the years -- substituting corn oil for Crisco, for instance -- I am especially delighted that my sister, Robin has continued this particular birthday tradition.

Nana began with corn fresh from my father's garden -- looking for older ears, with bigger kernels. Robin and I do our shopping at the Heron Pond stand at the Seacoast Grower's farmer's market in Portsmouth, NH, so we have to work a bit to find ears of the right maturity in early September.

Because we prefer our fritters with kernels in them, Robin cuts the corn off some of the cobs and scrapes the kernels off the rest with Nana's Pennsylvania Dutch corn cob grater, a kind of wooden plank with two sets of metal teeth set in the center. (See below.)

We like to say that while my aunt inherited Nana's jewelry, we got the corn grater, which to us, was the better end of the deal. Robin adds some fresh thyme and sage to the batter along with the traditional salt and pepper. Otherwise, these corn fritters are pretty much the way Nana made them -- a little complicated, maybe, but outrageously good.

Nana's Corn Fritters
1 dozen ears of fresh sweet corn, older, fatter kernels are better than younger
1/2 teaspoon each of thyme and sage
1/2 teaspoon, plus pinch of salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
3 large eggs, separated
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of cream of tartar
2-3 tablespoons oil to cover bottom of skillet, preferrably corn
1. Cut the corn off five ears, then grate six ears, using corn grater. If you're not lucky enough to have inherited one, use a box grater to scrape off the kernels at half their depth and then, using the back of a knife, scrape off the remaining pulp on the cob. Depending on the ratio of corn to batter you prefer, you can either grate or cut the kernels off the remaining ear. (NOTE: We're freezing the cobs to make a corn stock for chowder sometime later in the fall.)

2. Beat the egg yolks into the corn batter.

3. Add a pinch of salt and cream of tartar to the egg whites and beat until stiff peaks form.

4. Add oil to cover the bottom of a fry pan (we use a 14" iron skillet); then heat until just shimmering.

5. Mix in 2/3 of the egg whites, then gently fold in the remaining 1/3.

6. Put a generous 1/4 cup of batter into the oil. Don't crowd -- in our 14" pan, we make four at a time. Sometimes the corn has more moisture in it than others, and the batter can get too runny. If that happens, just stir a tablespoon of cornmeal or flour into the batter and continue.

7. As the fritters cook, they'll puff up and get brown at the edges. Nudge them a bit to make sure they're not sticking. When they have cooked enough to hold together, it's time to turn them. Put a insulated sleeve on the hot pan handle, then use a spatula to flip them. (Watch for spattering!) Swirl the pan to make sure the oil is covering the entire surface, and cook for a few minutes more. Keep an eye on them to make sure they don't burn, but don't rush them, either -- they take time.

8. Carefully remove cooked fritters and put them on cookie sheets in a 200 degree, so they crisp up.

9. Repeat, adding more oil, if necessary.

For some reason, the first batch frequently falls apart. If that happens, carefully remove the bigger pieces before proceeding. They make great snacks, but remember, they're hot!.

This recipe makes enough to serve six as a side. We made the full recipe for the three of us and heated up the remainder in the toaster oven for lunch the next day.

1 comment:

  1. Lynn, these sound fantastic. Going to make some tonight with hangar steak and field greens. - glenn k.