In my recent post on adobo rice cooked in bamboo, Bettyq and Ebbablue brought up the variant of cooking in corn husks. It was a very intriguing idea… easier than the bamboo, and in individual sized portions. I asked for Bettyq’s permission to try my own version of the dish. So early this morning in Cebu, I set out to the hills of Busay in search of freshly harvested corn. Not corn they cut off the stalks yesterday, but truly FRESH corn. The first five kilometers of the drive yielded no vendors, and we kept going… and going… and going up through the Busay mountains…
Finally, at around kilometer 22, now some 30 minutes away from Metro Cebu, we spotted some roadside vendors with some corn, but even at 9:30am, they were still using the previous day’s harvest. It was a bit disappointing, but I wasn’t ready to give up. I asked one of the vendors if they had any fresh corn coming, and she said yes, soon. Of course soon, in provincial parlance could be 30 minutes, 2 hours or half a day later! To egg her on, I said I was willing to buy 20 kilos if I could get it fresh off the stalk. She said, hmmm, maybe. Then finally, in slight desperation, I said I would buy 50 kilos worth and that got things moving. Her husband was at the corn fields literally, and after 20 minutes of waiting, we took the Manang with us in our vehicle to go directly to the nearby corn fields! How’s that for making sure it was fresh? :)
We caught up with her husband just a kilometer away, his pick-up truck already filled with three sacks of freshly harvested corn. We measured out 50 kilos right there by the roadside and they even added a couple of kilos for free. At PHP25 a kilo vs. PHP30 at their stall for retail clients, this corn worked out to PHP10 for each large cob. That’s roughly 30-50% less than the Carbon market in Cebu! And it was FAR, FAR FRESHER. :)
We called our offices on our cellphones and told them to get some water boiling. We made it back to the city a half hour later, and peeled some corn, leaving the husks intact as instructed by bettyq.
We cooked several corn cobs for just 7-8 minutes and cut off the kernels. They were some of the SWEETEST kernels of corn I have EVER tried. Cooked within an hour of being harvested, the difference in sweetness levels was just absolutely amazing. After 24 hours, quite a bit of the natural sugars start to turn into starch, and so the corn appears less appealing the longer it sits after harvest.
We made a mixture of some fresh, slightly undercooked rice, some minced three-hour slow-cooked adobo, onions, garlic, spices and condiments, lots of corn and used that as the “stuffing” for the corn husks, which had first been soaked in some clean water. The reason for the mixture has some context in the province of Cebu. Lots of folks used to mix corn “grits” with rice, as rice was quite scare or perhaps more expensive than corn at one point in the province’s history. This traditional mixture of rice and corn is quite bland I find, so I thought it would be interesting to do a “take” on the mixture by doing a fresh corn and adobo rice combination…
The mixture was then placed inside the corn husks and tied with some abaca twine (easier than using the corn husks) and a charcoal fire was readied.
The packets look misleading in that you think they contain corn on the cob!
Grill for say 10-12 minutes over a hot flame, so that the husks char slightly, while the water trapped in the layers of husks steams the rice and the flavors from the smoke and husks infuses the adobo rice.
Serve hot and one whole husk per diner. Cut open the abaca twine and place on a large dinner plate… Some of the crew opted to take all the rice out in one fell swoop, but I ate mine slowly savoring the aroma of the charred husks. The rice was VERY, VERY good. It was a bit of a hassle to do all of this, but once we get the hang of it, I am sure it will be relatively easy work. The presentation is unusual and intriguing, the rice within delicious. If you want to ramp up flavor, you could add some garlic or chili vinegar, some chili or butter achuete oil or lots of other condiments. Thank you bettyq and Ebbablue. I sure hope we can figure a way out to serve this at the restaurants, even if only on a limited basis where we deliver a batch for lunch and dinner and only offer it until they run out. :)
Photos 2,3 & 4 by CoS. All other photos by MM.