After that, it's simply a matter of cooking the stuff. Megan from Untiedt's complains that most people overcook their corn pretty drastically. If you're boiling it, add the corn after the water comes to a boil and cook for only three minutes. That's it! Only three! It will keep cooking once you pull it out anyway, and if you leave it in for ten minutes it will get mealy. Plan on spending $3 to $4 a dozen for corn at the farmers market this year.

A week later, I talked to Frank Spreitzer, the manager of that mecca of corn, the $2 grilled-corn stand at the State Fair across from the bandstand. He told me he won't even eat boiled corn--after 17 years of life with the glories of corn roasting, he's strictly a grilled-corn man. Why is the State Fair corn so good? Because it's fresh. The stand's owners have a farm in the west metro specially commissioned to come up with 20,000 ears of corn that all ripen during the ten days leading up to Labor Day. The corn is picked fresh every day and delivered the next day, at which point it's simply stripped and roasted. All that jazz about soaking your corn or what-have-you? You don't need it, says Spreitzer, all you need is a hot grill and fresh corn. And, preferably, a big Top 40 country band, in case you were wondering. Spreitzer says he never sells as much corn as he does when Randy Travis or Garth Brooks is around--your Smashmouth crowd is really more of a fried-food crowd.

So, the grilling contingent speaks. But of course, there's another camp, a fancy camp where they tend to point out that boiling corn has its own rewards, like corn water, which is only a step away from corn soup and corn sauce. At the Lowry Hill restaurant Auriga, chef Doug Flicker says sweet-corn soup is one of his favorite markers of midsummer, and here's how you make it: Take a dozen ears of corn, and cut off the kernels with a knife. Take your corn cobs, cover them with water, and boil for a few minutes. Remove the cobs, and then add the raw corn kernels to the corn-cob stock, cook for ten minutes, and purée everything in the pot, seasoning with salt and pepper. Flicker says you can add cream or butter but will probably not have to, because the corn will be sweet enough. (A dozen ears should make soup for six or so.) In the restaurant now, Flicker is serving a fancy version of his corn soup ($6): He adds Parmesan, and he squiggles a stripe of red-pepper aioli across the top. The aioli is made with a hot and sweet red pepper grown in the Basque region of France, and the combination of the sweet, fresh, pure taste of corn enhanced with the salt and savor of Parmesan and then contrasted with the hot, rich power of the aioli--truly remarkable stuff.

Remarkable too is how corny Tejas is--bah-dum-sha! Seriously, the Edina Southwest cuisine standard-bearer is absolutely brimming with good uses of sweet corn. Executive chef Mark Haugen uses it everywhere. In the past he's done a whole corn dinner, starting with corn flan (with cornmeal-crusted oysters) and cornbread, proceeding to corn chowder with chorizo, and culminating in "suncorn"-crusted snapper with an heirloom tomato salad in a smoked-corn vinaigrette. "Suncorn" is ground, sun-dried corn. "It's almost like sugar Corn Pops, without the sugar," says Haugen. "We've even made corn ice cream before--it's really good, but it's hard to get people to try it. When corn is at its best, it's so sweet, it goes perfectly with vanilla and cream. It tastes corny but sweet."

On the Tejas lunch menu right now is a grilled-vegetable salad with a sweet-corn sauce ($7.95). I went down to try it--and if you're a vegetarian, you should too. It's a brilliant use of vegetables: Grilled zucchini, carrots, bell peppers, onions, and summer squash are tiled around a grilled half-ear of corn, the plate filled in with that corn sauce. Sweet, fresh, bright, and pure, it is the utter essence of corn, and I would have been happy to drink a bowl of it. The platter comes with tortillas, and the vegetables are sprinkled with queso fresco, with the general idea that you'll make tacos. Me, I ignored the tortillas and took some of Tejas's signature corn-shaped blue-corn sticks and swabbed up the corn sauce with them--I'm telling you, it was a virtual orgy of hot corn-on-corn action.

But that wasn't the best part.

I think the best part was the knowledge that I can now wreck corn with the best of them, and a new generation is going to be forced to watch me and wonder, for years after: What the heck?...

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