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Now let me confess right off, I got some grief for cooking corn in a beer cooler. "You might as well cook that corn in the dishwasher," was the less-than-excited response. But a real veggie evangelist will press on even under pressure, ever on the hunt for new and interesting – and always, useful – ways to cook vegetables.
Besides, I was pretty sure my dear Auntie Karen was onto something when she sent me the "recipe" awhile back. (Ha! Is something this easy a recipe? Yes, if it's life-changing, you bet.)
It felt like a good idea for cooking corn outside, while camping, say, or for a shore lunch when fishing.
It felt like a good way to cook a whole mess of corn for a crowd with practically zero fuss and muss.
But here's the thing, why this is my new way to cook corn:
I don't have to deal with a huge pot of boiling water, especially emptying said huge pot of boiling water, with hungry corn eaters hanging around.
After just 30 minutes, the corn is perfectly cooked. That's a longer time than usual to cook corn, I understand, but the whole 30 minutes is without attention, letting the corn just cook merrily away, doing its own thing, in a corner of the kitchen or out on the patio or wherever, leaving plenty of time to pour myself Beer & Ginger Ale.
But more than that, after the cooking time of 30 minutes, the corn holds beautifully without getting soggy or overcooked. Two days in a row we made Cooler Corn, both times serving it more than 2 hours after the 30 minutes of cooking. It was as good as fresh-cooked, no questions asked, maybe even better.
In fact, three generations gobbled up two coolersful of corn this last weekend. The second day, the kids had been romping in the pool for a couple of hours and emerged, hungry, before dinner (this great Carne Asada published in the Sunday NYTimes Magazine, for the curious) was ready. Fending off hunger pangs, I quickly melted some butter on a plate in the microwave and then delivered it, a platter of sweet corn and a roll of paper towels to the patio. Whoosh, a Giant Corn Crunching Sound ensued. Even the six-year old who's more keen on hot dogs and candy than anything resembling a vegetable ate five ears!
So I'm not getting grief anymore, I'm getting, "When can we make some more Cooler Corn, Alanna?"
UPDATE: STOVETOP OPTION When I first published this recipe in 2012, some readers expressed concern about using a cooler other than its intended purpose, wondering whether the combination of boiling water and plastic would be a bad idea for food. Rather than debate that question – there's no winning for losing there – I decided to try the same technique in a big pot on the stove. And – drumroll, please – it worked great!
Now here's the things to know. First, use a heavy pot that will hold heat, enameled cast iron like Le Creuset would be great. Second, make sure the lid fits tight, you don't want heat escaping from the pot. Third, even a heavy pot won't "hold" heat like a cooler will but still, you've got a good couple of hours for the corn to stay hot right in the pot.
"Yay! Worked perfectly!" ~ Rene
RECIPE for HOW TO COOK CORN in a BEER COOLER
Time to table: 45 minutes
Serves as many as needed
Ears of corn
COOKING CORN IN THE COOLER
Wash the cooler inside and out. Depending on how the cooler's been treated by its humans, you might want to sterilize it with boiling water!
Shuck the corn, removing the husks and the silks. Rinse the ears under running water, rinsing off any grime that's gotten inside, any-anything that's transferred from the husks to your hands to the ears. If you like, snap the ears in half, then drop into the cooler. This can be done in advance, as early as the morning of an evening dinner, I'd think.
Thirty minutes before serving, pour boiling water over the corn, enough to cover and then some. Close the cooler and leave it alone – no peeking, people! – for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, check the corn for doneness and eat up!
Otherwise, if you want to serve the corn later, leave the corn in the still very-hot water with the cooler cover closed. Serve up to 2 hours later. (Two hours worked for us twice, any longer I haven't done.)
SAME TECHNIQUE ON THE STOVE
Bring a big pot of water to a boil, you want to have room for the corn to swim around in. Once it comes to a boil, turn off the heat, drop in the shucked corn, secure the lid tightly and leave it alone – no peeking! – for 30 minutes. The corn will be sweet and tender after 30 minutes, ready for eating. To hold the corn, just leave the pot on the stove with the water still in the pot and with the lid on, the corn will stay hot for a couple of hours.
ALANNA's TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
COOLER CHOICE So one year for a big party, this technique did not work. I was mortified, luckily there was lots of other food. STILL. What I realized later is that I'D used an older cooler that was no longer airtight and maybe wasn't even a "cooler" anymore, just a big ol' worn-out plastic tub. So if you've got a collection of coolers out there in the garage or down in the basement, pick one that's newer and tighter. Just sayin'.
SMALLER PORTIONS I've taken to breaking ears of corn in half, more people will take a half ear of corn than a whole ear. Maybe it's just more manageable? Also - a half ear is great for kids.
SALT I don't salt the water, it's just not needed, the corn itself has so much flavor. Regular readers know that because we don't eat processed food, I'm much less concerned about salt consumption than others and use it regularly and liberally. So coming from me? To say that the corn doesn't need salt says something!
BUTTER I was kind of surprised how little butter was used, just rolling the hot ears of corn in a plate of melted butter. For 8 ears, I melted 4 tablespoons of butter, at least one and maybe two were left over.
WORD TO THE WISE Don't forget to wash the cooler afterward, it gets mighty stinky mighty fast.
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MORE FAVORITE CORN RECIPES~ How to Freeze Corn ~
~ Microwave Sweet Corn ~
~ Raw Corn Chowder ~
~ Grilled Sweet Corn (in the Husks) with Spiced Lime Butter ~
~ Warm Tomato, Corn & Okra Salad ~
~ more corn recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Fresh Creamed Corn ~
~ Creamy Ricotta with Tomato-Cucumber-Corn Salad ~
~ Sweet-Corn Soup with Shrimp ~
~ more corn recipes ~
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