Mushrooms and corn seem to have a natural culinary affinity. This may help to explain how the fungus that causes hideous tumors (‘smut’) to grow on corn ears came to be considered a delicacy – what the Mexicans call huitlacoche. It's caught on in this country, too; I had my first taste at Francine Bistro in Camden, Maine. Chef Brian Hill had found a local grower with smutty corn, and paired the huitlacoche with sweet corn and crème fraîche in a tender crepe. While the huitlacoche may be monstrously ugly, its flavor is gentle and mushroomy and was well balanced by the flavor of the corn.
I've learned to love them together, corn and fungi. Last fall's sweet corn bisque got a garnish of crispy fried shiitakes. And yesterday's chanterelles just begged for some of this season's kernels.
If you haven't made risotto before, this may not be the place to start. While not difficult, risotto takes some practice and attention, and I'm not enough of a master to feel comfortable training neophytes. I learned by following the Risotto Milanese recipe in Lynne Rosetto Kasper's The Splendid Table (the book that preceded her excellent radio show by several years), and by making it many times. I recommend a similar approach for beginners. I'm sure Marcella Hazan, Mario Batali, and a host of others have books that can offer excellent training as well.
Here's the recipe I improvised:
3 ears fresh sweet corn
2 cups fresh chanterelles
Unsalted butter, kosher salt and pepper, heavy cream
1 1/2 quarts full-flavored chicken or vegetable broth
1 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/3 c minced shallot
1/4 c dry white wine
2 c arborio or carnaroli rice
1/4 c freshly grated imported parmesan cheese
Cut the kernels and scrape the milk from the corn cobs; reserve in a bowl. Cut or break each cob into 4 pieces and combine with the stock in a medium (3-qt.) sauce pan. Bring to a gentle simmer for 10 minutes, turn off heat, and cover pan.
Meanwhile, use the kernels to make creamed corn as described in this post. Set aside in a bowl.
Slice the mushrooms and sauté in butter over medium-high heat until relieved of their moisture and browning at the edges. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Because we've had so much rain this season, these chanterelles were waterlogged beyond belief – they shrank to much less than half their original volume, and had very little flavor, but...they were a gift, eh?
For the risotto:
Remove the corn cobs from the broth, then bring the broth to the gentlest possible simmer and keep it there.
In a heavy-bottomed pan over slightly more than medium heat, melt the butter and olive oil together, then sauté the shallot until soft and translucent.
Add the rice and stir to coat with the oil and butter, then cook, stirring, for two minutes.
Add the wine and cook, stirring, until the wine has evaporated and the rice is nearly dry.
Begin adding the broth, about 3/4 cup at a time, stirring constantly and allowing the rice to nearly dry out between additions. Continue adding broth and cooking/stirring until the rice is soft but still firm at the center. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then turn off the heat, cover the rice, and let it rest for 2 or 3 minutes.
Remove cover, restore heat to medium while stirring constantly, then add another ladleful of broth and stir, then add a cup of the reserved creamed corn, the mushrooms, and the grated cheese.
This turned out to be mildly disappointing because the mushrooms were so insipid, and the corn sort of overpowered them. But with good, dry, chanterelles, this ought to be just fine.