One note, how many ways can you really express one note and make something beautiful? One note expertly played, especially in the culinary medium, can take you on an incredible journey. Highlighting one ingredient to build an entire culinary experience around has become a new trend and showcases a chef’s versatility and creativity. We stretched our culinary muscles recently and created a menu centered around the Midwest’s most famous crop, corn. So sit back and enjoy the story of our Amazing Maize Menu.
When planning a menu around one central ingredient diversity is key, in textures, presentation, and flavor combinations. Corn was a perfect medium to work in because of the versatility already built into the ingredient. Each succulent corn kernel is bursting with the sweet and savory flavors of summer. Corn meal on the other hand is a perfect combination of sweet flavor and course texture.
To start our corny experience we needed a flavor bomb in a very small package. We needed something to capture the dinner’s attention and get them ready for the journey to come. A quick, spicy and smooth soup shooter is the perfect way to excite the taste buds. A spicy roasted corn soup, enhanced with jalapeno, sautéed onions, carrots and cream, pureed till velvety smooth then topped with a drizzle of spicy and smoky ancho chili cream. Sweetness and smoke dance on your tongue while the spice tingles your mouth and throat demanding more!
Playing off the smoke and sweetness in the amuse we delighted our guests tongues with a fresh and crisp salad straight from the south west. Lightly smoked corn kernels were layered with julienned chayote squash, fresh arugula, and dressed with a simple sun dried tomato vinaigrette. We made this dish so much more than a simple salad by passing to each table charmoula grilled prawns and charmoula grilled and flaked salmon. Add on some savory goat cheese and scallion corn muffins and you have just experienced a trio of corn preparations and we are not through yet!
For the entrée we had to allow the corn to shine without being too overshadowed by the main proteins on the plate. Since we are pulling from a southwest influence why not create a savory corn pancake with diced bell peppers, red and green onions seared to a golden perfection. This was our base for the “main event”, 8 oz. salt and pepper encrusted filets, roasted to a perfect medium rare paired with a chipotle and apricot glazed sea bass, a fire charred sweet pepper medley, and grilled spring asparagus. The corn popped as you bit throughout the pancake, which soaked up all the rich juices from the filet. The sweet and smoky heat of the chipotle glaze complimented the intense flavor of the sea bass.
Working with all the intensity of the grill in many of our dishes meant that we needed something to pull back and showcase the sweet side of corn, while still providing a bridge between the previous course and dessert. We paired rich and sweet chipotle chocolate cake with some sweet and salty caramel corn ice cream, all finished with a prickly pear sauce. The slight smoke and heat in the chocolate made the cake seem richer and more decadent. But the ice cream was the star, a perfect mixture of sweet corn, dark caramel and coarse salt evoking memories of childhood, crunching on bags of sweet and salty caramel corn.
This dinner was about proving a point, that you can take one ingredient and showcase all the various forms and flavor profiles it can take on. From savory to sweet, smoky to salty, corn was the perfect ingredient to create an “A-maize-ing” evening. What will be your ingredient?