As long as the Cloud-Men controlling the weather continue to deny that it’s fall, we might as well do the same thing in our own kitchens. 80-degree weather in October? Let’s lean into it by celebrating the advent of this weekend with, say, a nice, summery slaw, some slow-cooked ribs (not these ones), and a piping hot batch of corn latkes.
Because that’s basically what these fritters are, right? They’re starchy, they’re crispy, they’re kind of a pain in the ass to make, what with the shaping and the frying and the flipping and the keeping warm without burning-ing—although at least they don’t come with the tedious water-wringing step that turns latkes from fun kitchen project to ultra-tedious annual production. (Because who has the energy to grate, soak, drain, squeeze, and fry dozens of teeny potato piles more than once a year?)
No, corn fritters aren’t quite as fussy as their potato-based siblings. They’re also, I’d argue, not quite as good, maybe partially because they’re more assertively flavored; you can put pretty much anything atop a greasy latke and be happy, but fritters call for some slight editing. Applesauce would be weird; plain sour cream would seem too… plain. Lox? Don’t make me laugh. (Apparently, people in the south sometimes put jam on them, which: no.) You could make some kind of garlic-yogurt sauce for them, if you wanted to feel fancy, or maybe some sort of aioli. Either way, serving them without adornment would be sort of like placing out a pile of unsalted popcorn and calling it a day.
That said! I’m pretty sure we discovered the corn fritter’s true calling when one of the diners at our table—I’m not being coy, I really can’t remember whose idea it was—decided to steal a page from the book of one of my favorite New York institutions, Pies ‘n’ Thighs, and dress them the way that joint dresses its famous chicken biscuits: with butter, honey, and an overly generous dousing of Frank’s Red Hot.
Just… just look at them. That is a fine plate of food right there—even if it doesn’t exactly scream “Halloween is around the corner.” Maybe I should try sticking them inside a jack-o-lantern instead?
2 ears corn, raw or cooked [Raw is great if it’s super-fresh; cooked is better if it’s not. Want to cook the corn to a perfectly crisp-tender point, without any fuss? Just stick it into the microwave, unshucked, and set the timer for three minutes; remove, and wait for it to cool before you peel off the husk and silk. Voila: your corn is cooked, and you barely had to do anything. America!]
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup oil
1 tablespoon flour [or corn meal, if you’re really trying to corn this piece up, or perhaps wanted to make them gluten-free]
1 egg [Warning (corning? No, not corning): This is not enough to bind the batter together. You’ll need to add at least one more egg to prevent these fritters from falling apart, and probably more flour as well, depending on how big your ears are]
Salt and pepper
Beat egg[s]; add flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper and blend well. Cut kernels from ears of corn into egg mixture and mix all ingredients together. [Eyeball it to see how thick of a batter you’ve got, but I know that when I followed Nonnie’s recipe to a t, I had an awful lot more corn than fritter. You don’t want them to be too doughy; the idea here is to make fritters that are corn-forward, just barely bound by the other ingredients. Even so, you’ll likely need more flour and another egg to reach that ideal.]
Heat oil in large skillet and drop egg-corn mixture into hot oil by spoonfuls. [Flatten them out a bit with your spoon so that they’ll cook evenly—we don’t want well-done ends and underdone middles, do we?] Brown each fritter well on one side [which shouldn’t take too long, maybe 2-3 minutes; turn and brown well on the other side. [How many does it make? I didn’t count, but I’m pretty sure the yield is high enough to comfortably feed four, provided you’re not like, only eating fritters for dinner—and it’s incredibly easy to scale up or down.]
The verdict: I am not and have never been of southern heritage, so I can’t speak to the authenticity of this recipe. I don’t know how well they’d complement a weeping glass of sweet tea on a hot summer’s day; I don’t know if the batter cries out for melted butter; I don’t know if they’d be improved by taking a dip in a deeper pool of oil to make something more like hushpuppies than yellow latkes.
I can tell you, though, that they’re tasty, versatile, and just as good reheated as they are fresh from the griddle—especially if you really bring on the hot sauce and honey. Who needs seasonal cooking when the out-of-season stuff is this good?