First cookout of year is Memorial Day tradition
May 24, 2019
Tomorrow is the start of a three-day weekend that many of us consider the opening of the summer season. While Memorial Day may offer an extra day to relax, the origins of the holiday are far more noble. In 1868, the somber holiday called Decoration Day was begun, named for the custom of placing flowers on the graves of Civil War soldiers at the suggestion of Maj. Gen. John Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic.
Although his was a Union veterans association, Logan encouraged people across the country to place flowers on the graves of both Union and Confederate soldiers who had died during the war. He chose the date of May 30 for the observation. By 1971, after the U.S. had suffered through several more wars, Congress established Memorial Day as the last Monday in May to honor all the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military.
In this area, the Lewes-based Daughters of the American Revolution hold a wreath-laying ceremony at the Lewes Presbyterian Church. The American Legion and VFW will join several patriotic organizations for a commemorative service at the Rehoboth Beach Bandstand. The Lewes-Rehoboth Rotary Club has installed long rows of full-size American flags in front of Cape Henlopen High School, and many homes and businesses are flying Old Glory.
Once we have fulfilled our patriotic obligations to honor these fallen heroes, another tradition often seen on Memorial Day is the first cookout of the year (perhaps not a tradition for folks who use their barbecue grills all winter long). We always have to clear out the spider webs, make sure the propane tank is full and expend some elbow grease scrubbing the crusted grill racks.
Although it’s much too early for local sweet corn, some of the markets have offered white corn and some bicolor ears. Lloyd’s had a large bin, from which I collected a half-dozen ears to grill. If you’ve done any research on how to grill corn, you’ve likely seen a range of instructions.
Some advocate removing the silk and keeping the husk intact, giving the kernels a chance to steam a bit. Others remove everything to get the kernels directly on the heat, often advising to soak the corn in cold water first. Other options include microwaving or parboiling the ears so they don’t have to spend very long on the grill. There isn’t any right or wrong way to grill corn; it just depends on your personal preference, how much grill space you have and how much char you would or wouldn’t like. Timing-wise, the ears should be cooked after about 10 minutes on a preheated medium-high grill.
My approach for perfectly tender corn is to leave on the husks, trim off the top silk tassel, microwave for 3 minutes on high, then let them sit for about 10 minutes before shucking and sending them to the grill for a slight sear. If you want to use the microwave to completely cook the ears, plan on 5 minutes on high for no more than three ears at a time.
Your next decision is what to serve on the corn. The basics are always butter, salt and pepper, but for a change, consider the ears in the photo, drizzled with ranch dressing, topped with bits of crispy bacon and snipped chives.
Another variation is a Mexican street-food favorite called elote. Grilled ears of corn are spread with crema (the Mexican version of sour cream, slightly runnier than ours), then sprinkled with chili powder, cotija cheese and lime juice. If you can’t find crema, a combination of sour cream and mayonnaise will work as a substitute. Feta can stand in for cotija, which is slightly less tangy – still a tasty way to welcome summer.
Dressed Grilled Corn
6 ears corn, shucked
2 T melted butter
salt & pepper
3 T ranch dressing
2 slices cooked bacon
Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush the ears of corn with melted butter. Grill corn, turning often, until slightly charred all over, about 10 minutes. Transfer corn to a serving platter. Season with salt and pepper, drizzle with ranch dressing. Sprinkle with crumbled bacon and snipped chives. Yield: 6 servings.
6 ears corn, shucked
2 T melted butter
1/2 C crema*
1 t chili powder
1/8 t cayenne (optional)
1/2 C grated cotija cheese
1 lime, cut into wedges
Preheat grill to medium-high. Brush the ears of corn with melted butter. Grill corn, turning often, until slightly charred all over, about 10 minutes. Spread corn with a layer of crema, sprinkle with chili powder, cayenne (if using) and cotija. Serve warm with lime wedges. *Note, if crema is unavailable, substitute 3 T sour cream mixed with 5 T mayonnaise. Yield: 6 servings.