Whether you call it husking, hulling, shucking or peeling, depending on what part of the country you’re from and your family’s edicts, we all have to remove the outer layer of corn to get to the golden, sweet kernels within.

While corn takes up considerable space in the garden, I find it to be one of the more rewarding things to grow — along with asparagus, strawberries, raspberries and tomatoes — because the sweet punch of corn moments after coming from the garden is unrivaled by even that found at our esteemed farmers markets.

While using fresh corn in a risotto (recipe follows), the words of Judy Rogers, author of “Zuni Cafe,” came back to me. She writes of the import- ance of using all your senses in cooking.

Risotto gets a bit of a rap because of the continuous stirring purported to create the smoothest and creamiest dish. While adding the stock a little bit at a time — along with frequent stirring — encourages the rice’s starches to release more readily, I’ve found this dish becomes easier if, instead of hovering over the pan for 40 minutes, I listen for changes in the pan’s sounds.

When the liquid is first added and then the mixture comes to a simmer, it’s very quiet with a very slight hum — almost no sound. But when the liquid becomes absorbed by the rice, it begins to make a kind of gentle crackle and pop. This is when you need to come back to the stove and add more liquid. Wait too long, and the snap and crackle become more vigorous, and shortly thereafter can become scorched rice.

Another simple tip is about removing kernels from the cob. Place a cereal bowl upside down in a larger bowl and place the cob vertically on the cereal bowl. Using a sharp knife, run it down the base of the kernels, feeling when you are going too deep and also removing the undesirable, more fibrous base.

Turn the cob and repeat until the kernels are all removed. Save the cobs for the risotto or a soup, thinking of them as you would chicken bones from a chicken to make stock. You also can freeze them if you’d like to save a few at a time.

Lastly, here’s a suggestion for making not just a good risotto, but an excellent one.

Recently, a wonderful gift came to me in the form of a pepper grinder for white pepper corns. I use a grinder for black pepper all the time, and know there are moments when the delicacy of a dish, in either taste or appearance, could be marred by black flecks of pepper. This Fresh Corn Risotto dish is one.

It’s so beautiful to me with the creamy rice and the soft yellow corn, that adding black doesn’t seem quite the thing. A little white pepper, on the other hand? Yup. And let’s be honest, we all use white pepper so infrequently that anything already ground has been sitting in the back of the cupboard or by the stove quietly becoming as flavorful as dust. Toss that sucker away and either forgo the pepper or splurge and get a grinder, my friends.


This is one for those summer nights when you can feel a touch of chill in the evening that makes you think, even for just a second, about the pending fall. When a little heat in the kitchen is actually a welcomed feeling.

1 1/2 cups fresh corn kernels; about 2 whole ears of corn, husked and kernels removed

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 cup diced onions, about 1 onion

1/2 teaspoon salt

Several grinds of fresh white pepper

2 corn cobs

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice

1/2 cup white wine

3 cups total of corn and chicken broth (see directions)

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Place the cobs (after the kernels have been cut off) in a saucepan, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 to 20 minutes and then pour water into a measuring cup. Add chicken stock to make 3 cups total.

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onions and salt, and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. If the onions begin to brown, reduce heat. When the onions are done, add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon for one minute. Add the white wine and stir. Bring the wine to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

When the liquid has mostly evaporated (which you can tell by sight, but can also hear as the rice begins to crackle just a little), add 1 cup of the corn/chicken stock and stir. Continue to add the stock one cup at a time until it is all incorporated, stirring frequently and listening for changes in the sounds of the rice.

When the rice is almost done and needs maybe only a minute or 2 more, add the uncooked corn kernels and the white pepper. The rice is done when the liquid is completely incorporated but everything is still creamy and the grains are just the tiniest bit al dente in the center. Add the Parmesan cheese, stir, and serve immediately. Serves 4 to 6.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea,” a recipe book about her experiences cooking aboard the family’s windjammer. She can be reached at:

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