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Sandwich grills Korean 'corn cheese'

I certainly hadn’t had my fill of sweet corn when I drove past 7 Oaks Farm’s recently cleared fields.

And just like that, the local corn harvest had basically concluded for another nine months or so. Happily, fresh corn from points farther north was still available this week at my usual grocery store. But that’s bound to be short-lived, as well. Better get it while you can.

I managed to stretch about a dozen ears this past week into esquites for a cooking class, succotash with some new, garden-fresh potatoes and a couple of ears for my kids to crunch. Almost as satisfying as munching on the cob is this fusion-cuisine take on grilled cheese. Fresh corn surrounded by melted cheese? What’s not to love?

Korean “corn cheese” furnished the inspiration for this recipe from the Los Angeles Times. Anyone who’s ever been to a Korean barbecue restaurant (sorely lacking in Southern Oregon but common in SoCal) may recall a curious concoction of corn topped with melted mozzarella cheese. This side dish to Korean barbecue often fills half the moats surrounding the tables’ central grills at these restaurants.

Here’s the dish as a sandwich, complete with a Latin street food-inspired “elotes” variation.

Korean Corn Grilled Cheese

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1/2 cup minced yellow onion

1 1/2 cups corn kernels (from 3 to 4 ears)

Granulated sugar (optional), if you think the corn needs it

2 tablespoons mayonnaise, plus more for brushing

8 ounces low-moisture mozzarella, shredded (2 cups)

4 ounces fontina or provolone cheese, shredded (1 cup)

2 tablespoons minced, fresh, flat-leaf parsley

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

8 slices really good sourdough bread, cut 3/4 inch thick

In a large cast-iron or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft and just beginning to brown at edges, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the corn and sugar (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is crisp-tender, for about 3 minutes. Scrape corn into a bowl and let cool for 10 minutes (wipe skillet clean and reserve). Stir in the 2 tablespoons mayonnaise, followed by the mozzarella, fontina and parsley; season with the salt and pepper.

Brush a thin layer of mayonnaise on each slice of the sourdough bread, then turn slices over. Divide corn mixture among 4 slices of bread, then sandwich them with other 4 slices. (Make sure “mayonnaise sides” are facing outward.)

Heat reserved skillet over medium heat. Add 2 sandwiches to skillet, cover and cook, flipping once, until golden-brown outside and cheese is melted inside, for 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to a cutting board and repeat with remaining sandwiches.

As soon as they’re cooked, cut sandwiches in half and eat, being careful not to burn your mouth on molten cheese. Makes 4 servings.

VARIATION: For “Elotes Grilled Cheese,” substitute queso Oaxaca for mozzarella, substitute queso fresco for fontina, substitute cilantro for parsley and add 1/2 teaspoon chili-lime salt, such as Tajin to corn mixture. Serve hot with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Tribune News Service photo