In the small New England town where we live local corn is everyone’s favorite vegetable in late summer. You can find it at our Saturday farmers’ market, pick your ears at roadside stands, or add them to your cart at supermarkets. I can’t remember a time these past few weeks that there hasn’t been a bag of corn in my fridge. Over the years I’ve used corn for creamy seafood chowders, partnering the brightly hued kernels with scallops, shrimp, and peppered salmon. I’ve added corn to risottos and included it along with tomatoes and basil as a filling for omelets. But by far, I’ve used corn as the star ingredient for gratins and puddings, accenting it with diced chorizo, or with crisp bacon and chopped tomatoes, or pairing it with potatoes and chard. My latest creation is a corn and jalapeño pepper cheese gratin.
Sautéed fresh corn kernels and chopped onion are combined with a savory custard of eggs, Half and Half, and grated jalapeño cheese for this dish. Cumin and chipotle chili, both warm spices, accent the corn beautifully, while a generous sprinkle of chopped cilantro for the garnish offers a refreshing herbal taste.
You can make this gratin a day ahead and reheat it for about 20 minutes at serving time. It makes a perfect side for grilled burgers, barbecued ribs or chicken, roasted salmon, pan seared lamb chops, and much more. If you’re looking for a summer side, keep this dish in mind. It will add pizzazz to your menu!
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Corn and Jalapeño Cheese Gratin
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1 1/2 tbsp unsalted butter plus extra for the baking dish
1 cup chopped onion
4 cups corn kernels (scraped from 6 or more ears)
2 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp chipotle chili powder
4 large eggs
2 cups Half and Half
2 cups (6 to 7 oz) grated jalapeño pepper cheese
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1.Arrange a rack at center position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a shallow 2- quart oven-to-table baking dish.
2.In a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, heat oil and butter until hot, then add the onion and sauté, stirring, until slightly softened, 2 to 3 minutes. Add corn and cook, stirring often (but not continuously) until corn is lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and stir 1 minute more. Remove from heat and stir in cumin, salt, and chipotle chili powder. Set aside for 5 minutes.
3.In a large bowl, whisk eggs and Half and Half together until blended. Stir in corn mixture, and all but 1/2 cup of the cheese. Mix well. Transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle remaining cheese over the top.
4.Bake until a knife or tester inserted into the middle comes out clean, and top is lightly browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Remove and cool 5 minutes. (Gratin can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, uncovered, in a preheated 350-degree oven 20 minutes or longer.)
5.To serve, sprinkle chopped cilantro on top in a horizontal line down the center of the gratin. Serve warm. Serves 6.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2023