Some of my BEST Michigan sweet corn memories were made in the summer of 1998, with the opening of Latitude Restaurant in the Marina District of Bay Harbor, Michigan just west of Petoskey.
I took up residence in the area for a full summer season. During this time, I did the following:
Oversaw the finishing of the construction
Oversaw the hiring of our first chef and kitchen crew
Remained until the end of the summer tourist season
There’s just something about being in the midst of a summer resort area yet in a rural farming community serving the local restaurants and “fudgies” who maintain residence until mid-fall.
As Corporate Chef of the Novi-based Epoch Restaurant Group, one of my roles was to support my chefs by helping in ANY capacity necessary to allow them the opportunity to stay in their kitchen and provide hands-on direction and supervision.
Sometimes, that meant filling in as pastry chef or line cook. It sometimes even meant washing dishes. I did whatever it took to keep the wheels on the tracks and the boat afloat.
One of my favorite self-appointed chores was to head out just east of Petoskey on Mitchell Street to Bill’s Farm Market. It was in the rolling hills in the middle of what seemed like nowhere–until you got there and saw those creamy, white kernels of corn. They were exposed by each husker as he or she gathered around Bill’s tractor wagons, stripping corn to fill the quota for that evening’s dinner.
It was then that you knew it was somewhere you HAD to be if you wanted the BEST sweet corn in Northern Michigan.
Thankfully, I didn’t have to wade through the crowds of huskers; they always had my order of six full paper shopping bags waiting for me. And after picking up some heirloom tomatoes; banana peppers; bunches of fresh, sweet basil; and more, I headed back to the restaurant with thoughts of sweet corn on my mind.
Since then, each time I bite into the cob of late-summer Michigan sweet corn, I think about the summer of ‘98 and some of my favorite sweet corn recipes. I made them that summer and still enjoy them today.
Here are two I think you will enjoy:
Sweet Corn Stuffed Pork Chops
4 Pork Chops, Thick Cut (1” to 2”) 2 TBSP Butter, Salted ½ Cup Sweet Onion, Chopped ¼ Cup Green Bell Pepper, Chopped ¼ Cup Red Bell Pepper, Chopped 1 ½ Cups Sweet Corn Kernels 1 ½ Cups Fresh Bread Crumbs 1 TBSP Fresh Sage Leaves, Minced ½ tsp Fresh Thyme Leaves, Minced ½ tsp Black Pepper, Ground 2 tsp Sea Salt (or kosher salt) 2 TBSP Vegetable Oil
With a sharp knife, cut a horizontal slit in the side of each chop, forming a pocket for stuffing.
Take ½ cup of the sweet corn, and puree or mash finely. Set aside.
Heat butter in a medium-high, non-stick skillet, and sauté the onion, bell peppers and the remaining 1 cup of sweet corn until tender (3 to 5 minutes).
Place sautéed mixture in a mixing bowl, and stir in bread crumbs, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. Do not overmix.
Generously stuff each pork chop with the stuffing mixture.
Sauté each stuffed chop on both sides over medium-high heat until golden brown. Place on a baking sheet and finish cooking in a 350 F oven until medium well (150 F, about 20 minutes).
Sweet Corn & Bacon Pie
1 – 9” Pie Shell ½ LB Nino’s Maple Bacon, Cut in ½” Pieces 1 Lg. Sweet Onion, Diced ½” 2 Stalks Green Onion, Chopped ¾ Cup Red Bell Pepper, Diced ¼” 3 Cups Sweet Corn Kernels (about 3 ears) 1 ½ Cups Half and Half 3 Extra-Large Eggs 1 tsp Fresh Thyme 1 ½ Cups Monterey Jack Cheese, Shredded To Taste Salt & Pepper
In a 375 F oven, par-bake the pie shell for approximately 10 minutes or until light blond (do not brown). Remove from the oven and cool.
Cook bacon in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Using slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Then pour off all but 1 1/2 tablespoons of drippings.
Add onion and pepper to skillet. Sauté until almost tender–about 8 minutes. Add only 2 cups of the corn, and continue to sauté about 3 minutes longer. Then remove the entire mixture from the heat to cool until warm.
Puree the remaining 1 cup of corn. Then whisk together the pureed corn, half and half, and the eggs. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In the pie shell, spread the sautéed onion, peppers and corn mixture over the bottom surface, and then sprinkle the bacon and cheese evenly over that mixture.
Gently pour the egg mixture into the pie shell, and bake in a 375 F oven approximately 45 to 60 minutes or until the filling is firm and golden brown.
Remove from the oven, let rest 20 to 30 minutes and serve warm.
Do you have a favorite sweet corn recipe? Share with me in the comments below!