By Jacqueline Runice
Corn (or do you call it “maize”), has been filling bellies for about 10,000 years along with adding health benefits like its rich phytochemical count and we don’t have to explain how its fiber scours the old intestinal tract. It’s plentiful, inexpensive and lucky us, we live in Midwestern sweet corn belt so most farm to table chefs do their due diligence with cheery veg. Read on for some shucking good places to find fresh corn, enhancing, or even starring in great entrees, appetizers and sides.
Sweet Corn Risotto
State and Lake Chicago Tavern
201 N. State St.
Chicago, IL 60601
The Midwest meets Italy in Chef Nathan Sear’s entree of Sweet Corn Risotto, a gorgeous melange of roasted corn, eggplant caponata, smoked mozzarella, smoked paprika and herbs. It’s a vegetarian’s dream and packs enough flavor that carnivores will find and new appreciation for plants. Chef says, “This dish celebrates two end-of-summer vegetables I love the most: corn and eggplant. The sweetness from the corn and slight smoke from the mozzarella give it a balanced flavor in an approachable risotto format.”
El Che Bar
845 W. Washington Blvd.
El Che Bar consistently turns out exceptional food in a city crammed with crazy-good restaurants and Chef John Manion’s South American empanadas are no exception. Most importantly, the pastry is baked which immediately eliminates the possibility of the oil laden lump you’ve no doubt experienced elsewhere, Instead, it’s perfectly crisp and flaky on the outside and bursting with creamy, corny “humitas” inside (humitas is an Argentinean food word for “pudding”). Chef Manion imports a pre-made dough from Argentina, where the style is baked empanadas with a flaky, pie-like crust rather than the heavy-shelled fried numbers typical in Brazil and “everywhere else in the world.”
1521 N. Fremont St.
Chicago, IL 60642
Is it possible to bring a new take on thin crust pizza to Chicago? Pizzeria Bebu aims for exactly that with fresh, locally sourced ingredients at the forefront of the menu at the Lincoln Park pizzeria. Among the tempting pies like sausage and broccoli rabe; meatball and ricotta; and carbonara is the Market Pizza which continually evolves featuring chef’s selection from the local market. The Market Pizza currently includes creamy panna sauce, Parmesan cheese, roasted corn, roasted poblano, fresh mozzarella, house-made bacon and a crystal hot sauce. Wow, right?
Open Faced Toast
200 N. Columbus Drive
Chicago, IL 60601
Executive Chef, Sean Patrick Curry traveled from the Atlantic City Culinary Academy to an apprenticeship at L’Essential in Chambery, France under renowned Executive Chef Michelle Bouvier. With 25 years of culinary experience form the Jersey Shore to Hollywood and now in the best restaurant city in the nation, Curry’s classical approach results in dishes that are visually seductive and simply delicious. While everyone else lists avocado toast on their menus (yawn), Curry offers a number of open face toasts including one with charred corn, pepper jam, goat cheese and citrus offering sensory overload of sweet, savory, spicy and tart. Another stellar starter full of textural madness is crispy corn served with citrus mayonnaise, fancy peppercorns and smoked sea salt.
Elotes are certainly having their beet, Brussels spouts and pork belly day in the sun. Typically the Mexican street corn cobs are grilled, bathed in a creamy mayo, chilii powder and lime mix and sprinkled with Cotija cheese. Yes, it’s a heavenly way to get your carbs and calcium but you’ll need an exorcist after tasting the elotes here which get a spicy kick when drizzled with Malagueta Mayo, a Brazilian street-food staple. It’s made with a very hot red chili (Malagueta) which is widely used in Brazil. You’ll warm up quickly when you bite into the roasted cob adorned with Malagueta mayo, Cojita cheese, cilantro and cayenne.