Oh, the end of summer. How I love the cooling days, the longer evenings, the patches of yellow leaves in the cottonwoods. And how I love the harvest. This is the most wonderful time of year to just go to the growers’ market, co-op, or grocery store, see what’s fresh and beautiful, take it home, and do something simple with it. Find beautiful, fresh ingredients and let them sing.
Of course, in New Mexico there’s another harbinger of fall. Around grocery stores and markets of all kinds hangs the evocative scent of roasting green chile. Displaced New Mexicans pine for it – signs at UPS stores blare, “WE SHIP GREEN CHILE!” Meanwhile, folks transplanted to New Mexico from other places fall in love.
And the corn is coming in. Hefty, beautiful, sweet ears from Colorado (Arne and I search for Olathe corn) and Moriarty. I search for the heaviest ears with the thickest butts before taking a peek inside to see if the juicy kernels reach all the way to the end of the cob.
With these ingredients in hand, the answer to “What’s for dinner?” on a Veggie Week night seemed self-evident: green chile and corn fritters. I just had to find the perfect recipe. Poking around on the web led to disappointment. The recipes all seemed too light on corn, too heavy on flour. One even said “These taste just like pancakes with corn stirred in!” I didn’t want pancakes with corn stirred in. I wanted corn, highly flavored with green chile and just held together by a matrix of cornmeal and flour.
Then I remembered that I owned Crescent Dragonwagon’s wonderful book The Cornbread Gospels: 350 pages of cornbread, each recipe I’ve tried absolutely perfect. I knew it would have just what I needed. Indeed, there were two corn fritter recipes listed in the index. One was a green chile corn fritter, but it included red peppers and onions – I wanted pure corn and chile. The “Fresh Corn Fritters” recipe was just what I was looking for: two cobs’ worth of corn kernels, held together with less than half a cup each of flour and liquid. Add some green chile and I’d be in business.
Arne and I have been curious whether the very wet summer would lead to a mild green chile crop, and judging from the chiles I bought from La Montanita Co-op, it has. Both medium and hot pods had nearly imperceptible heat. I chopped and added five, and wished I’d put in more. Usually they’d be too hot to add that much. Always taste your chiles! Jalapenos, New Mexico greens, poblanos – all can be as mild as bell peppers or spicy enough to leave you gasping for a glass of milk. I’ve always considered serranos to be more reliable, with a medium to high heat level, but recently I even had one of those where I could barely perceive the heat. Always taste. And if you don’t use gloves, wash your hands until the tips of your fingers don’t taste spicy. Otherwise rubbing your eyes could lead to a nasty surprise!
I stirred everything together into a beautiful batter, thick with plump kernels of corn. Then, because I guess I’m not as much of a purist as I like to believe, I threw in a handful of Parmesan cheese. Cheddar would be good too, or keep it simple as intended!
The batter fried up into gorgeous, golden cakes that tasted even better than they looked – crisp outside, tender inside, lightly sweet, gently spicy, and absolutely packed with kernels of perfectly cooked crisp-tender corn. You could leave out the green chile for an even simpler, more elemental summer treat, but I think it would be better suited to an appetizer than a main dish. Of course, either way they would also make a fabulous side dish for another summer’s end favorite, grilled meat of any kind.