This is my version of a recipe for corn cakes in the August 2007 issue of Sunset magazine. The original called for the use of a food processor and three bowls -- my version uses just two bowls, and preserves the texture of the corn kernels. The original included green onions (pulsed with the kernels in the food processor) but I've eliminated them here in favor of a "plain" corn cake, but suggest some flavor variations at the end of the recipe.
1 cup fresh corn kernels (2 ears)
1/4 cup finely diced yellow onion or sweet onion
2 tbsp olive oil
2 eggs, separated
1/4 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup all purpose flour
To get the corn kernels off the ears, simple run a knife down the side of the corn cob, separating the kernels from the cob, then use the flat end of the knife to scrape the remaining corn juice from the cob.
In a medium size bowl, stir together the corn kernels, diced onion, olive oil, egg yolks, cornmeal, flour, and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper. Set aside.
In a very clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they reach the soft peak stage. Stir the egg whites into the corn mixture. Normally a recipe like this would request you fold in the egg whites gently, but I say just stir them in -- the original recipe was too light and eggy. By stirring the egg whites in and letting them deflate a little, they will still lead to a light enough batter without creating too pronounced an egg flavor.
Preheat your cast iron skillet over medium-high heat, then add a little pat of butter when you are ready to cook your cakes. (If you don't have a cast-iron skillet, shame on you -- it's one of the most versatile and long-lasting pieces of equipment you can buy for your kitchen, and it's so long-lasting you'll hand it down to your grandkids.) When the butter has stopped foaming, drop 4 hefty tablespoonfuls of batter, evenly spaced, into the pan. If your pan is well-preheated, I'd say it can take as little as 45 seconds per side to cook the cakes, so keep an eye on them! Flip each cake when the first side is golden brown. To check for doneness, tap the top of a cake with your finger -- if it is not done yet, the wet center will feel wriggly, if it is done, it will be springy. Season the cooked cakes with a little more salt and pepper, if necessary.
Between rounds of cakes, it's easiest to re-grease the pan by quickly swiping the butter along the surface just before adding the next dollops of batter. Cast iron pans get HOT and retain heat very well, so don't let your butter sit before adding the dough -- it will smoke and burn.
If you use a thinner aluminum pan to cook your cakes, they will take longer to cook -- probably a couple of minutes on the first side -- because a thin pan doesn't retain heat well as cast iron. The batter will cool down the pan, and it will need to recover that lost heat to cook the cake.
Some suggested flavor variations:
Pesto corn cakes -- add 2 tablespoons pesto to corn mixture
Thyme corn cakes -- add 2 tsp fresh thyme leaves to corn mixture
Spicy corn cakes -- add a pinch of red pepper flakes to corn mixture