Corncakes: Less work than escaping a corn maze
The corn maze amazes. So clever! So complicated! So scary.
Clever? In a single summer the American farmer can devise the sort of cunning landscape it takes the British gardener a lifetime to achieve. Corn bolts from seed to sky-high in no time. Boxwood, shown proper deference, occasionally deigns to stretch. Hence the hedgerow, diversion of the estate set. And the corn maze — open all fall to anyone with 9 bucks and nerve.
Complicated? And how. Once the maze featured an entrance, a zig, a zag and an exit. Followed by cider, doughnuts and a bin full of ogre-nose gourds. Now, it’s a feat of civil engineering — all switchbacks, dead ends and checkpoints that form an image — if viewed from space.
Scary. Have you navigated a corn labyrinth lately? Have you sensed the husks rustling, the crows laughing, the tweens sneering? Have you found yourself, 9 miles into a 2-mile loop, gnawing on a desiccated yellow cob, rattling the prickly corn bars and shouting, “Let me out!?” No? Good for you. Me, I’m sticking with corncakes.
These Venezuelan street snacks are tasty plain or topped with shredded pork, roasted vegetables — or anything else.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 7 minutes each
Makes: 12 corncakes
3 cups fresh yellow corn kernels (cut from about 3 ears of corn)
1/2 cup arepa flour, see note
1/3 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
11/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Corn oil, for cooking
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Swirl: Measure all ingredients (except corn oil and cheese) into the food processor. Swirl smooth (or as smooth as possible), about 30 seconds.
Cook: On a nonstick griddle or in a nonstick skillet, heat a little corn oil over medium-low. Pour on 1/4 cup batter and nudge into a circle about 4 inches in diameter. Cook until the corncake is brown at the edges, speckled with popped bubbles and no longer sticky to the touch, about 4 minutes. Flip. Scatter on 1 tablespoon cheese. Cook until cheese has melted and cake is golden on the second side, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels.
Repeat: Adding more oil as needed, cook remaining cakes. Keep finished cakes warm in a 250-degree oven.
Serve: Enjoy open-faced or folded in half.
Note: Arepa flour, precooked white cornmeal, is shelved with other kinds of flour or with Latin American goods at the grocery store. Or try a Latin market. Brand names include Goya Masarepa and Harina P.A.N. Don’t get distracted by standard cornmeal or masa harina.
Provenance: Adapted from Alma Cocina Latina restaurant, Baltimore.