I was so excited to move to Chicago--but the one thing I was nervous about was the availability of produce. I cherished my Saturday mornings in Los Angeles, when I wandered among the magenta carrots, the enormous bunches of black kale, the monstrous leeks, and the sweetest citrus I have ever tasted--including, of course, the kumquats! Growing up in California with a prolific family garden, I value the long growing season and the temperate weather that nurtures a plethora of produce. But, with nearly everything else in Chicago's favor, C and I packed the wagon, headed East, and I crossed my fingers that I would find good farmers' markets in my new city.
I've frequented several markets in Chicago now and am blown away by the tasty sweet corn. I had a hunch that the Midwest would offer excellent corn based on the thousands of miles of corn fields we drove through on our way to Chi-town. When I called you to talk about my excitement (and relief) over the gorgeous yellow and white corn I discovered you told me I was eating "peaches and cream" corn. The name couldn't be more apt because the cut kernels taste as sweet as Parker County Peaches.
It was tough to choose a preparation for corn to share with you because I believe good corn is best when enjoyed without much intervention from a cook. However, I've been dying to experiment with dumpling wrappers, so I decided to concoct a sweet corn dumpling. A weekend of brainstorming with friends and a trip to the farmers market solidified my plan for a delish dumpling filling. I knew that I wanted to use mushrooms for a meaty texture and flavor contrast to the sweet corn, but I had not decided on a type until meeting a fabulous mushroom man at the Wicker Park Farmers' Market this morning. When I explained my sweet corn dumpling vision, he wistfully recommended using golden chanterelles, but felt they were too expensive to use for two dozen dumplings. I decided that if his gorgeous golden chanterelles complemented the sweet corn as well as he predicted, I would go for them. You could use any mushroom you desired, but the chanterelles were delectable.
If you haven't made dumplings before, it is quite fun. My amazing friend Katie and I stuffed and folded them into various oragami-esque shapes before browning them in a pan and briefly steaming them. They were a hit-- after all, who doesn't adore dumplings for dinner?
Gilded Sweet Corn Dumplings
2 tbs olive oil
1/4 cup shallot, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 ears of corn, shucked and with kernels cut from cobs
1/4 lb golden chanterelle mushrooms, chopped
a few pinches fresh thyme, chopped
1/8-1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (to taste)
Sea salt and pepper to taste
1 pack of Wonton wrappers (at least 2 dozen wrappers)
Add oil to large skillet. Once heated, add shallot and garlic; cook for several seconds before adding corn and mushrooms and thyme. Cook mixture, stirring frequently, until corn is soft and golden. Remove from heat and transfer mixture to bowl. Drizzle the vinegar onto the mixture, stir well, and add salt and pepper to taste.
Prepare a small bowl of water and lay the wrappers out on a flat surface. Place approximately a tablespoon of filling in the middle of the wrapper, wet your finger, coat each edge of the wrapper with water, and fold. Experiment with methods of folding your dumplings--we particularly liked connecting the corners in the center and sealing the edges to create a four-sided pyramid. The important part is that the sides are sealed so that the dumplings can be steamed.
Once you finish creating all of your dumplings in assembly line fashion, coat the bottom of a large skillet with a very thin layer of oil. Place the dumplings in the skillet, creating a single layer. Let dumplings brown for approximately two minutes and flip if possible. When dumplings are sufficiently brown, procure a lid for your skillet. Add approximately 3 tablespoons of water to the skillet and quickly cover with the top. Beware of steam burns. When the water has cooked off, remove dumplings from skillet, set aside in a warm place, and brown a new batch.
Our dinner party dunked some of these dumplings in soy sauce and found it delicious. You could experiment with some balsamic and oil dips, or even a plain Greek yogurt. Gilded sweet corn dumplings...who says Midwest cuisine can't be a bit racy?
Talk to you soon--and, by the way, delicious corn salad you made...that fish on the side looks quite posh as well :)