August 31, 2017
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Squeeze the Last Bit of Summer Out of Those Corn Cobs

By making a simple stock with corn cobs (and not much else), you can infuse grains and soups with a summery taste into the fall and winter.

When my boyfriend and I moved in together, I had big dreams for our kitchen of cohabitation. Our mutual obsession with food made us fall in love, and I bragged to friends that our fridge would be full of homemade condiments, jams, and sauces—our freezer overflowing with stews, Italian gravy, and stock now that we finally had our own place. Fast-forward nearly six years and the DIY dream has fizzled like a flat bottle of homemade kombucha. Our freezer is mostly full of Trader Joe’s gyoza and French bread pizzas, not quarts of chili ready to be defrosted for an easy weeknight dinner.

The closest we’ve ever come to living out our kitchen fantasy is saving vegetable scraps and chicken bones in resealable freezer bags for stock. This halfhearted attempt at reaching from-scratch kitchen status has been inconsistent, but ultimately it pays off when we can get our shit together and actually make stock.

During the summer in particular, when we seek out any excuse to add corn by the earful to every meal, we wind up with lots of bare cobs. As a result, we’ve started freezing them in bags alongside the chicken bones and veggie scraps, whipping up a batch of corn stock when the bag’s full—in anticipation of adding it to our next corn risotto or chowder.

By autumn, we still inevitably have a few quarts of the stuff in our freezer to last through the winter. Over the course of the following months, the stock will supplant countless boring pots of water. It will transform bland quinoa into something fully new—sweet and flavorful—and you can use it in place of water when cooking everything from grits and polenta to rice and grains. Add corn stock to savory oatmeal and bread pudding, or try it in your tomato soup and clam chowder. Swap out chicken or vegetable stock in curry recipes and balance out the spice with sweet corn broth, or cut through the bitterness of kale by braising it with a splash of the golden liquid.

It’s easy to make, too. Unlike most other multi-ingredient stocks, this version relies on just one: corn cobs. Everything else is optional, but the more you add to the pot, the more likely you are to overwhelm the natural sweetness of the corn. The best bet is to keep it simple. Start by saving your bare corn cobs in a plastic bag in the freezer. When you’ve accumulated about six kernel-less cobs, throw them into a pot on the back burner to simmer in water and you’ll have a flavorful stock in just 45 minutes. The cobs don’t need much time to infuse the broth with their sweetness.

Store the stock in your freezer and use it as often as you need a sweet reminder of summer. On cold winter nights, when warm weather seems like a distant memory, you can pull a bag of broth out of the freezer and get your fix.

Corn Stock

Corn Stock

4 cups


  • 5-6 corn cobs (kernels removed)
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 1 bay leaf

Corn stock is an easy way to bring a natural, summery sweetness to the base of your grits, grains, and even curries.

  1. Lay corn cobs flat in a large pot with bay leaf and peppercorns and cover with water. (The cobs will float slightly, but 8-10 cups will give them enough coverage.)
  2. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, give the cobs a stir and lower the heat. Simmer the cobs for 45 minutes to 1 hour, depending on how much time you have, but no longer than 1½ hours.
  3. Strain the broth and store in the refrigerator for one week or freeze for up to 6 months. Freezing stock in quart- or pint-size resealable bags makes for easy storage because they can lay flat in your freezer, but also keeps the stock separated into the amount that you’d typically need for a recipe.


  • Shrimp and Grits
  • 16 medium-large shrimp, shelled and deveined with tails intact (reserve shells for stock)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3-5 Calabrian chiles in oil, seeds removed, thinly sliced into rings
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chile oil from Calabrian chiles
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped
  • 1 lemon
  • Polenta
  • Polenta
  • 4 cups corn stock
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan

Change up your regular shrimp and grits routine by swapping your grits out for polenta cooked in sweet corn stock. You’ll have a smooth, flavorful base for the spiced shrimp.


  1. Bring stock and salt to a boil in a heavy saucepan. Add polenta in a thin stream, whisking. Cook over moderate heat, whisking continuously, 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cover pan, cooking at just below a simmer for 10 minutes.
  2. After 10 minutes, stir polenta with a wooden spoon continuously for 1 minute, then cook again for 10 minutes. Be sure that the heat is low so the polenta doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Repeat every 10 minutes, cooking for about 45 minutes total.
  3. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and Parmesan cheese until incorporated. Season to taste with salt. Cover and keep polenta warm for up to 10 minutes until ready to serve. If polenta sits for longer than 10 minutes it will begin to solidify. If this happens, add a splash of hot water and stir over low heat until polenta is creamy again.

Shrimp and Grits

  1. Rinse shrimp and pat dry with a paper towel. Place shrimp on a plate and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter with oils in a cast-iron pan over medium heat. Add garlic and chile rings and toss to coat. Cook until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes, to infuse the oils. Keep a close eye on the heat so you don’t burn the garlic.
  3. Add the shrimp to the pan and toss in the oil mixture. Cook the shrimp until they’re plump and pink, tossing occasionally, for 3-5 minutes. (It’s fine if the garlic starts to develop a golden color around the edges.)
  4. Remove the pan from heat and squeeze the juice from half a lemon over the shrimp. Add half of the chopped parsley and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Spoon polenta into bowls, then top with shrimp mixture. Drizzle some of the remaining oil over the polenta and garnish with chopped parsley.

Ashley Goldsmith

Ashley Goldsmith is a San Francisco-based food and travel writer. She's always hungry and is down to travel anywhere. Her words have appeared in Lucky Peach, AFAR, Bon Appetit, Eater, Vice, and others. Ashley also dabbles in writing about women's health, social issues, and fashion. Follow her on Instagram @ashleygoldsmith_

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