Corn is one of those foods I feel very ho-hum about most of the time. I, of course, always have a bag of frozen corn in my freezer to add to chili or rice or whatnot. But it’s rarely the main event. But when corn season hits, it’s a whole different vibe. I want corn with every meal. Too much corn? No such thing! In season, fresh off the cob corn is, like, a different species. It’s sweet, it’s juicy, it’s crunchy. And when it teams up with butter it’s game over for you. When corn is at its peak it’s tempting to just eat cob after cob with a little butter and salt for the entirety of the season. But corn is capable of so much more than that. Take today’s Sweet Corn Risotto with Blistered Shishito Peppers for instance.
What I love most about this Sweet Corn Risotto is it makes use of all of the corn from kernel to cob. Well, I guess it doesn’t make use of the husk, but you know what I mean. The kernels are cut away from the cob and set aside briefly before taking their star-making turn in the risotto. While the cobs are added to some simmering vegetable stock and left to get familiar. The idea behind this is to infuse the risotto with the flavor of sweet corn throughout the cooking process even before a single kernel hits the pan.
So let’s talk about that cooking process. I’ve explained the art of making risotto on this blog several times. I’ve defended the activity many people paint as an inconvenience as a form of meditation coupled with aromatherapy. So if you would like to read my passionate, potentially over-generous thoughts on risotto, check out this post. In today’s post, I shall resist the urge to repeat myself and instead directly tell you what to expect when stirring risotto. But before I do that, I will say that I very much enjoy making risotto and if you enter into the process in the right frame of mind, I think you will too.
To make risotto you need two things: arborio rice and simmering stock. What stock you choose to use is entirely up to you. Bring the stock to a gentle simmer on the back burner and place a large skillet on the front burner. I generally like to add some aromatics to my stock. My favorites include a parm rind, bay leaves, or in this case, a couple of naked corn cobs. You could add crushed garlic cloves, a nob of ginger, black peppercorns, anything your heart desires.
Once your stock is simmering, it’s time to start building the risotto in the skillet you placed on the front burner. And this starts as so many delicious recipes do – with oil and onions. Now, when making risotto you don’t want to brown the onions, you want to sweat the onions, so keep the temperature low. The lower temperature will encourage the onions to release their juices rather than sealing them off. And the more juices the onions generate, the more juice the rice can soak up. I usually add garlic once the onions are just translucent. The garlic doesn’t need to cook for very long.
Once your alliums are happy, you can add the rice. You want to toast the rice in the skillet until it starts to crackle and emits a nutty aroma. At this point, you can add your booze. You don’t have to add any alcohol if you don’t want to but remember the alcohol will have plenty of time to cook off and will supply nothing more than a compelling background note and depth. You can use all sorts of things here. I’ve used white wine, red wine, vermouth, and cognac and they have all been excellent. I would recommend avoiding any alcohol that is overly sweet, though.
Now, we’ve reached the portion of the recipe that you will either love or hate. It’s time to start ladling in the stock and stirring it into the rice. This can take 20 minutes. And if the thought of stirring something for 20 minutes sounds like your own personal hell, I would say risotto is not the dish for you. But if you’re only mildly deterred, let me assure you you don’t have to stir constantly. You can put the spoon down and take care of something but don’t wander away entirely. And pro tip, you can drink wine, hold a conversation, and stir at the same time.
Once the stock is in there and the rice is tender but with a nice bite, your risotto is done. I usually stir a little something into the risotto at the end. Something like cream or butter. In the case of this Sweet Corn Risotto, I added my corn when the risotto was on the verge of done. And when I had my rice where I wanted it, I took the risotto off of the stove and stirred in a couple of tablespoons of butter and some sesame oil.
Now, let’s talk garnishes and toppings. When I’m keeping things simple I just shave a little pecorino or parm on top and call it dinner. But you can get fancy with your toppings. This Sweet Corn Risotto features a fascinator of blistered shishito peppers and mustard microgreens. But in the past, I’ve topped my risottos with mushrooms, scallions, yolks of varying consistencies, and once a whole dang lamb shank. All of this is to say, risotto is a divinely blank slate. You can take the bare-bones method I’ve laid out for you here and go completely wild.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Sweet Corn Risotto with Blistered Shishito Peppers. This creamy, simple dish is an ode to corn season that will positively capture your heart.
Sweet Corn Risotto with Blistered Shishito Peppers
- 1 Large pot
- 1 Large skillet
- 2 ears sweet corn shucked
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1½ cups arborio rice
- ¼ cup dry vermouth
- 227g (8oz) shishito peppers
- 2 tbsp butter
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- ½ cup mustard microgreens tightly packed
- 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Cut the corn from the cobs and set the corn aside. Pour the stock into a large pot and add the cobs to the stock. Place the stock on the back burner of the stove and bring it to a boil. Reduce it to the barest simmer.2 ears sweet corn, 6 cups vegetable stock
- Place a large skillet over medium heat and add the oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Sauté until the onion is just translucent. Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute more.2 tbsp olive oil, 1 yellow onion, 4 cloves garlic
- Stir in the arborio rice and toast the rice for 2-3 minutes or until it begins to crackle and starts to smell nutty. Pour in the vermouth and stir until it is absorbed by the rice.1½ cups arborio rice, ¼ cup dry vermouth
- Add two ladlesful of the simmering stock to the rice. Stir frequently until the stock is fully integrated. ** Add two more and repeat until the rice is creamy and tender.
- When the rice is nearly done, stir in the corn and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes or until the corn is heated through.
- Place a large cast-iron skillet over high heat and heat until smoking. Add the shishito and spread them into an even layer. Let them cook undisturbed for a minute or two or until well charred. Shake the pan and repeat. Cook until the peppers are blistered on all sides. Take them off of the heat.227g (8oz) shishito peppers
- When the risotto is done, take it off of the heat and stir in the butter and sesame oil. Taste and season with salt accordingly.2 tbsp butter, 1 tbsp sesame oil
- Divide the risotto across four bowls and top each with 4-5 shishito peppers, a pile of mustard greens, and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Serve immediately.½ cup mustard microgreens, 1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds