Fresh Sweet Corn

All Ears
The climate of the Midwest is ideal for growing corn, which needs hot, humid summers and rich bottomland soil to be “knee high by the Fourth of July” and then ripen to sugary goodness. When it’s in season, people go nuts for it.
            Festivals like the Sweet Corn Festival in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, celebrate this delicacy every third week in August since 1953. Sure, there are the fire engine rides, a parade, a craft fair, and bingo.  But generations of sweet corn lovers—from grandparents to the newest grandchild--grab the salt shakers suspended by strings from a clothesline and gobble down ear after ear, right out of the pot.
Traditional sweet corn varieties like Silver Queen, Peaches and Cream, or Purdue Super Sweet barely make it in from the field before folks boil or grill it and eat right away. Our collective love of sweet corn is also reflected in the names of new varieties:  Temptation, Charm, Revelation, Sugar Pearl, Obsession, Passion, Gotta Have It, and Sweet Perfection. Who can resist?

“Sweet corn was so delicious, what could have produced it except sex? . . . 
People have wanted sex to be as good as sweet corn and have worked hard to improve it, and afterward they lay together in the dark and said. . . “That was so wonderful. . . . But it wasn’t as good as fresh sweet corn.” 
Garrison Keillor

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Tarragon Creamed Corn
Free range, organic chicken—a heritage breed, if you can find it—fresh sweet corn, and garden-grown tarragon provide the flavors in this new take on a farmhouse classic. A large, cast iron skillet, which can go from stovetop to oven, gives the crispest, most flavorful result. Cover the skillet with a lid or a sheet of aluminum foil to keep from making a big mess in your oven. Serve with a crisp, green salad and Farmhouse Yeast Rolls (adapted from Heartland: The Cookbook).
Varieties to try:  Heirloom Country Gentleman, Silver Queen, heirloom Boone County White, Butter and Sugar, or Peaches and Cream.
Serves 4
2 tablespoons Home Rendered Lard (page 000) or canola oil
4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Tarragon Creamed Corn:
4 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn kernels
½ cup chopped green onions with some of the green
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh tarragon sprigs to garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 475 °F. On the stovetop, heat a large cast iron skillet over high heat. While the pan heats up (this can take about 15 to 20 minutes), make sure the chicken is patted as dry as possible. Brush the skin side of the chicken breasts with the soft lard or oil. When the pan is smoking hot, carefully place the chicken, skin side down, and cover carefully with a lid of a sheet of aluminum foil. With heavy-duty oven mitts on, transfer the covered skillet to the oven. Roast for 10 minutes.
2. Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and turn the chicken breasts. The skin should be beautifully golden and crisp. Generously season the skin side with salt and pepper. Cover and return the pan to the oven. Roast another 20 to 25 minutes or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of a breast registers 160 degrees.
3. Meanwhile, make the creamed corn. In a nonstick skillet over medium heat, stir the corn, green onion, tarragon, and cream together. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the corn is tender, about 5 minutes for fresh corn, 10 to 12 minutes for frozen.  Stir in the vinegar and cook for 2 more minutes. Season to taste and keep warm.
4. Remove the chicken from oven, transfer to a plate, and tent with aluminum foil to keep warm. Over medium-high heat, whisk the white wine into the pan drippings and let reduce by half, about 2 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice, then season to taste.  To serve, place a chicken breast on each plate and nap with the pan jus. Spoon the creamed corn onto the plate, garnish with tarragon sprigs, and serve.