So the other morning I woke up with two almost simultaneous thoughts: I forgot to let the dog out last night and what am I going to make with the corn that’s been sitting in the fridge for the better part of a week? The first thought was immediately followed by that sinking gut feeling; our dog has been dead for a year. We’ve been showing Little e photos of him and though she says “daw” when she sees him, she doesn’t know him by name. I grew up with animals and loved every minute of it. Little e already has all the enthusiasm of an animal lover, so sometime in the future, we will have a dog again. Probably some rodents or birds too. But it’s not time yet. Until then, we try to seek out animals for her to love and learn about.
The second thought was less emotionally charged but more urgent–I hate wasting food. Fresh corn on the cob must be respected. I gave myself until lunchtime to come up with a dinner plan that included it. (What would happen to me after the deadline I cannot tell you.)
Then we got a text message from a friend. We have bunnies in our garden, it said. That was enough; we headed out. When we got there, my friend took us out to the back yard, knelt under a tree, gently pulled back the moss on the ground and revealed this.
I have never seen a warren like this before. I have never seen such tiny rabbits before.
What struck me most was the surprise of being witness to something we aren’t usually privy to. Wee rabbits nibbling grass beside their mothers, sure. But such intimate beginnings, hidden so perfectly that you’d step on their nest as you walked by and not know–this was unexpected. This was a secret we weren’t supposed to stumble upon, a startling glimpse into such new lives. And though she won’t remember it, Little e will have these photos as proof that she was there (“Hi, Bunny.”).
On the way home something on the radio about Italy made me think: risotto–it’s been a while since I made that. Risotto with corn? Why not. And then, of course, I had to check my trusty favourite cookbook for something with this combination and lo: parmesan corn risotto cakes. The day was two for two and it wasn’t even noon yet.
I didn’t have time that evening to make the recipe all the way to the fritter part, so I just made the risotto and a green salad. The corn makes it beautifully sweet and a bit citrusy. I like to sop up my salad dressing with the risotto; the acid cuts the creaminess in the most delightful way.
The recipe calls for a from-scratch corn stock, which is easy and also necessary. I added a nice chunk of butter with the parmesan at the end of cooking the risotto, which the recipe for the cakes doesn’t call for.
Parmesan Corn Risotto Cakes
Adapted from Rebar Modern Food Cookbook
Fresh corn stock
4 ears fresh corn, kernels removed and reserved
1 yellow onion
4 garlic cloves
2 bay leaves
a few sprigs of fresh thyme, oregano and/or parsley
1 tsp pepper corns
8 cups water
Put all ingredients into a pot and cover with the water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 45 minutes. Strain and keep warm.
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups arborio rice
2 cups fresh corn (or however much you get off the cobs)
1 cup white wine
The corn stock you made (above)
1 cup grated Parmesan
butter for finishing (if not making the risotto cakes)
Sweat the onion and garlic in the oil over low heat so they cook but don’t take on any colour, about 10 minutes. Add rice and stir as the rice turns translucent. I love watching this happen. Once the mixture is dry, add the wine and let the rice soak it up. You can turn the heat up to about medium now. Once the mixture is dry again, add a cup of stock and all the corn to the pot. Continue stirring the rice every few minutes to keep it from sticking and to massage out the starch, creating that amazing creamy risotto texture. Keep adding more stock by the cupful until the rice is tender and corn cooked. Turn off the heat and add about a quarter cup of butter (I always eyeball this) and the Parmesan. Leave the risotto to sit for a few minutes, then serve. If left for too long, it will get gummy, which won’t affect the taste, but will make it slightly less appealing on your fork.
OR: the next day–voila!–fritters from leftover risotto for lunch!
Form small cakes out of the cooled risotto and dredge in fine cornmeal. Fry in a few tablespoons of oil in a cast iron pan until lightly golden on both sides.