Monday, May 30, 2011

Snacking State-by-State: Illinois IV - For Corn's Sake

If the previous post's horseshoe sandwich reflects Springfield, deep-dish pizza reflects Chicago and pierogi reflects Chicago's ethnic Polish community, what represents the entire state, if not the whole region? Corn, that's what.

Official Name: State of Illinois
State Nicknames: The Prairie State; The Land of Lincoln
Admission to the US: December 3, 1818 (#21)
Springfield (6th largest city)
Other Important Cities: Chicago (largest in the state and the Midwest; 3rd largest in the US); Aurora (2nd largest); Rockford (3rd largest)
Region: Midwest, Great Lakes; East North Central (US Census)
RAFT Nations: Cornbread & BBQ, Wild Rice
Bordered by:
Wisconsin (north); Lake Michigan (northeast); Indiana (east); Kentucky (southeast & south); Missouri (southwest); Iowa (northwest)
Official State Foods and Edible Things: popcorn (snack food); GoldRush apple (fruit); white-tailed deer (animal)
Some Famous & Typical Foods: typical Midwestern foods, especially corn; Native American and pioneer foods; state-specific foods (horseshoe sandwich, shrimp de Jonghe, Chicago dog, Italian beef); also note: deep-dish pizza and hot dogs were first made popular in Illinois

The Midwest is the hub of our nation's corn industry, and it's made a lot of people very wealthy. Corn goes into so many things that we never realized even had corn in them: everything from ethanol to batteries (!) to high fructose corn syrup (and don't believe the lies about HFCS being "just like sugar" Check out the Picky Eater Blog for a recent takedown of Big Corn's claims about how great HFCS really is). Yes, most of the corn we get in my area is local, but do not forget just how important corn is to the whole fabric of the Midwest.

For a truly simple and delicious corn dish, I thought about various recipes, from corn fritters - corn oysters, that is - to corn pudding to corn chowder to just plain old corn on the cob. The recipe I found on Pam's Midwest Kitchen Korner spoke to me in a different way, and I got inspired to make myself some creamed corn.

The recipe: Creamed Corn

Pam's recipe for creamed corn is simple, unless you (again) reinvent the wheel like I did, and cut the corn fresh off the cob (I'm a silly non-Midwesterner).

Prepping the corn...

Pam used frozen corn, which you will probably do as well. The author's sister-in-law, who gave her this recipe, passed away not long before it was posted, and so she dedicates it to her.

The ingredients you will need include:

* corn (duh - I used six ears' worth, which after much research on the internet I reasoned equaled a one-pound bag's worth of frozen corn. This sort of thing shouldn't be so difficult to find.)

About one 16-oz bag's worth of fresh corn

* both milk and whipping cream (had on hand)
* sugar, salt and cayenne pepper (again, had it)
* butter and flour (mmmm, butter)

Please check out her recipe for exact quantities. Pam also puts Accent in her recipe. Accent (or "Ac'cent") is pure MSG, a no-no these days. I didn't have any and didn't buy any for this recipe. It worked just fine without it.

Again, I'm not going to post her recipe, but it is simple to sum up:

mix everything together but the butter and flour,

then add those toward the end to thicken.

This recipe was just about the loveliest corn recipe I have ever had. Far from the sloppy glop I'm used to seeing in restaurants, this was silky and sweet and just plain delicious. Pam and her sister-in-law had a good thing with this recipe, a simple and delicious way to prepare your corn.


Pam's Midwest Kitchen Korner (Pam). "Creamed Corn". Pam's Midwest Kitchen Corner, published November 12, 2009.

The Picky Eater: A Healthy Food Blog (Picky Eater). "The Truth About High Fructose Corn Syrup". The Picky Eater: A Healthy Food Blog, published April 19, 2011.

Some information also obtained from Wikipedia's "Illinois" page and other pages, and the Food Timeline State Foods link to "Illinois".