Because of my daughter’s braces, our family’s summer corn-on-the-cob-palooza has been temporarily nixed. Corn is still on the menu — thank goodness — but the kernels need to be cut off the cob, lest any gnawing ravage the delicate infrastructure of modern orthodontics.
The upside to all this is that my corn kernel repertory has expanded beyond salads, creamed corn and cornbread.
In this speedy one-pan recipe, I’ve paired the kernels with boneless, skinless chicken thighs seasoned with brown butter, basil and a squeeze of fresh lime for a dish that’s rich and sweet, tangy and herby, and a friend to braces-wearers and their corn-loving companions. (It’s also great for anyone looking for something easy to make for dinner on any summer night.)
The fastest and least messy method I’ve found for cutting the kernels off a corncob is to lay the ear flat on a cutting board, then slice off the kernels, turning as you cut. Keeping the ear in contact with the board prevents kernels from flying all over your kitchen as they would if you stood the ear up in a bowl. Using a long knife with a thin blade also helps.
You’ll need about 1 1/2 to 2 ears of corn to yield enough kernels for this recipe. Or you can use frozen corn. You don’t even need to defrost the kernels first; they’ll thaw in under a minute once they hit the sizzling mix of butter and chicken drippings in the bottom of the pan.
For those who prefer chicken breasts, if you’re wondering whether you can substitute them for thighs, the answer is yes. White meat has a narrower margin of error than dark meat; overshooting by even a minute can dry it out. Sear them lightly and make sure not to overcook them at the end.
Feel free to add other quick-cooking vegetables to the pan along with the corn. A handful of baby spinach, some slivered zucchini or any cubed ripe tomatoes wilting on your counter are especially welcome. Just add a little extra salt and lime juice to taste.
You won’t need much to round this out — maybe a lettuce or cucumber salad, and perhaps a loaf of bread. But nothing too hard and crusty, at least if there’s a braces-wearer at the table that night.
Skillet Chicken Thighs With Brown Butter Corn
This weeknight-friendly recipe pairs sweet corn kernels with sautéed boneless chicken thighs. Easily made in one large skillet, the chicken is cooked first before the corn kernels are added to sauté in the drippings, seasoned with garlic, thyme and plenty of brown butter. Finished with torn basil, lime juice and scallions, it walks the line between rich and sweet, and tangy and fresh — all in under 30 minutes.
By Melissa Clark
Yield: 4 servings
Total time: 30 minutes
4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 pounds)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from 1 to 2 ears; see Tip)
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
Lime wedges, for serving
2 scallions, thinly sliced, for serving
1. Season chicken all over with salt and pepper. Rub garlic and thyme on chicken and set aside while preparing the rest of the ingredients.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium-high. Add oil and 1 tablespoon of the butter, letting butter melt. Add chicken and sear, undisturbed, until browned on both sides, about 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.
3. Over medium heat, add remaining 2 tablespoons butter to the skillet. Cook, swirling occasionally, until the foam subsides and it smells nutty and toasty, 2 to 3 minutes. (Watch carefully to see that it doesn’t burn.) Add corn and a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Sauté until tender and golden brown, 2 minutes.
4. Add chicken back to the skillet. Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through and corn is caramelized, about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and taste corn, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Stir in basil and squeeze 2 lime wedges over the top. Serve garnished with sliced scallions and more lime wedges.
Tip: The least messy way to cut the kernels off an ear of corn is to lay the ear flat on a cutting board and slice off the kernels, turning the cob as you go. Keeping it flat helps prevent the kernels from flying all over the kitchen.