Our local Ontario corn is now fully in season, so this seemed like a very appropriate recipe. This is a great way to utilize some leftover corn on the cob from last nights BBQ or dinner party.
I first tasted this delightful and unexpected salad at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen, a very cool restaurant right here in Liberty Village. I was intrigued by the name, Popcorn Salad, and then delighted by this surprising combination of three types of corn which give a unique crunch and texture. Also, the use of a brown butter dressing lends a rich, nutty flavor to this salad. So the next night I set about learning how to brown butter to make the dressing, and re-creating the salad for my dinner guests. It was a hit, so I thought I’d share it here with you.
Basically it’s a simple green salad, using mixed greens or whatever you have on hand, liberally adorned with BBQ corn kernels, popcorn and Corn Pops. Yes, Kellog’s Corn Pops, the breakfast cereal! You can also get crunchy roasted corn kernels as well to toss in for some extra texture and flavor.
Brown butter is a classic French sauce simply created by cooking butter until it lightly browns. This has the dual effect of eliminating the water from the butter, thus concentrating the flavor, as well as imparting a rich, nutty flavor. It’s traditionally used on its own as a sauce for fish, chicken, or vegetables. In this case I decided to use the browned butter as a base for a vinaigrette to dress our salad. The brown butter blended with sherry vinegar, Dijon mustard, a bit of olive oil and a hint of garlic makes a fabulous salad dressing!
Since we’re in the middle of the BBQ season, I thought I could start off with a delicious and different barbecue marinade that I came up with recently. It’s sort of a spin on the Mexican Molé Poblano, which combines chilies, chocolate and a whole whack of other ingredients in a dark brown sauce. I had recently eaten a truly horrible Molé at a Queen St., Mexican restaurant that shall go unnamed, so I guess I had the flavor on my mind.
In a big bowl I combined dark cocoa, lime juice, a pinch or two of Chile Pepper and a few dashes of Waha Wera Kiwifruit & Habanero Chili Sauce . This sweet but hot sauce is available from The Spice Trader on Queen St., West near Trinity Bellwood Park. Somehow the flavor of the cocoa, combined with a little sweetness from the kiwi and the heat of the spices, all blended with the lime juice just sets off flavor explosions! I threw in some chicken legs and let them marinate for a few hours (or overnight if you have the time), then tossed them on the barbecue.
Here’s a little tip for marinades, especially with chicken. Once you’ve made the marinade, set some of it aside and use that to brush on the chicken as it cooks. You shouldn’t use the marinade that the chicken has sat in since it contains raw chicken. I cooked the chicken relatively slowly over slightly cooled charcoal so it wouldn’t burn too much on the outside, brushing a bit of the marinade on towards the end for a bit of an extra flavor punch.
Roasted corn goes great with this recipe. My friend Nadia, whose family comes from Pakistan, recently showed me a tasty way of treating roasted corn. Combine paprika (or smoked paprika) with cayenne and a bit of sea salt. Cut lime or lemon wedges, dip them in the spice mix and rub them on the corn. A lively (and healthy) change from the old salt and butter! The kiwi and strawberry salad, sprinkled with finely chopped mint and just a drizzle of honey, adds a nice balance to the meal (and helps cool the palate).