The best way to achieve nirvana here is to use the best ingredients available. Pull back a bit of the corn husks and smell the kernels; they should smell like sweet corn, not green or overly vegetal. The butter should taste fresh.
- 6 ears super-sweet white or yellow corn, shucked (see NOTE)
- 1 large lime
- 3 tablespoons best-quality unsalted butter
- Kosher salt
- 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons finely chopped chives, preferably from thin stems
Use a sharp chef's knife to cut vertically down each ear of corn, slicing off the kernels. Place the kernels in a large bowl, then hold each cob over the bowl and use a spoon or the back of a knife to scrape any remaining corn and milk from each cob.
Use a Microplane grater to zest the lime, being careful not to include any pith. Cut the lime in half.
Melt the butter in a very large skillet (more than 12 inches across) or saute pan over medium heat. Add the corn; squeeze about 1 tablespoon of lime juice over the corn and season with salt to taste. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 to 7 minutes; the kernels should remain plump-looking yet any liquid in the skillet or pan should be evaporated.
Stir in 3/4 cup of the cream; add the cayenne and the lime zest. Mix well and cook for a few minutes, until the mixture appears slightly thickened yet the corn is still looking plump. Add up to 1/4 cup cream as desired for a creamier consistency.
Season with salt to taste; stir in the chives. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm.
NOTE: To remove any remaining corn silk, place the just-cut corn kernels in a very large mixing bowl. Set a large bowl of water next to it. Swish your hand through the corn in a circular motion; the silk should stick to your hand. Rinse your hand in the adjacent bowl to remove the silk.
Adapted from chef Thomas Keller's "Ad Hoc at Home," with Dave Cruz, Susie Heller, Michael Ruhlman and Amy Vogler (Artisan, 2009).
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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