Home with the Lost Italian: Creamed corn with a savory touch

Thanksgiving is right around the corner, and now is the time to start prepping the kitchen and finalizing your menu to make sure you’re ready for the big feast.

Timing is critical to pulling off a successful Thanksgiving dinner, and I try to include dishes that either won’t compete with the turkey for oven time or, even better, can be made in advance of the holiday. With its easy stovetop preparation and quick time under the broiler, this Savory Creamed Corn Gratin meets both criteria.

The creamed corn I grew up with was always too sweet for my palate, thanks to the addition of a tablespoon or more of white sugar. I find that the additional sugar tends to overpower the natural sugar of the corn, which is sweet enough to shine all on its own.

For my Savory Creamed Corn Gratin, in addition to traditional ingredients like sweet corn and heavy cream, I build flavor by adding one finely minced shallot, a touch of cayenne pepper and freshly grated Parmesan cheese, which is incorporated into the corn as well as sprinkled on top to create the gratin finish.

To thicken the corn mixture, I make a basic blond roux using equal parts flour and butter, which I cook over medium-low heat just until smooth and light golden brown. This step only takes about a few minutes, and it is important to whisk the mixture constantly to ensure that it is smooth and free of any lumps.

This simple side dish can be prepared on the stovetop in about 10 minutes, and the creamed corn mixture can be made a day in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. Just before serving, I transfer it to a medium-sized casserole dish and pop it under the broiler for two to three minutes to give the creamed corn a wonderfully cheesy crust. If made in advance, the creamed corn should be reheated on the stovetop over medium-low heat until hot.

Easy to make, comforting and delicious, this Savory Creamed Corn Gratin will showcase the corn without losing any of the tradition. It’s become a family favorite in recent years, and we hope you enjoy it, too.

This week marks the seventh anniversary of this column, and in the spirit of the season, Tony, Gio and I wish to express our gratitude to the editors, photographers, friends and readers who inspire us every day to keep on cooking. We wish you a wonderfully delicious Thanksgiving and holiday season.

Savory Creamed Corn Gratin

Serves: 8 to 10

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 shallot, finely diced

Pinch of cayenne pepper

16 ounces frozen corn kernels

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon white or black pepper

2 tablespoons flour

5 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, divided

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped (to garnish)

In a large saucepan or medium pot, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the diced shallot and saute until translucent, about 3 minutes. Stir in the cayenne pepper until combined.

Add the corn, cream, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; once boiling, reduce to low heat and simmer gently for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and remove from heat.

In a separate pan, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter over medium-low heat. Add the flour and whisk constantly to form a roux. The roux is ready when it is light golden-brown in color with a smooth and lump-free consistency, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the roux to the corn mixture and use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine. Stir in 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese and stir until incorporated.

Transfer the corn mixture to a medium-sized casserole dish. Sprinkle the remaining 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese over the top. Turn the oven on to broil and place the dish about 4 inches below the broiler. Broil just until the cheese is bubbling and golden brown. Sprinkle the fresh parsley over the top and serve immediately.

Advance prep: The corn mixture can be prepared a day in advance and refrigerated until ready to use. Before serving, heat the mixture on the stove over medium-low heat until heated through, about 7 to 10 minutes. Once heated, transfer corn to casserole dish, add the cheese topping and broil as directed above.

“Home with the Lost Italian” is a weekly column written by Sarah Nasello featuring recipes by her husband, Tony Nasello. The couple owned Sarello’s in Moorhead and lives in Fargo with their son, Giovanni. Readers can reach them at sarahnasello@gmail.com.


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