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Recipe: Indiana State Fair Roasted Corn

Feel free to enjoy at the table, if you must, but roasted corn always tastes better when you’re standing up.

It’s no secret: Hoosiers love corn. Beyond our taste for this sweet summer staple, corn is big business in Indiana. The USDA reports that in 2018, Indiana was fifth among all states in corn production, with over 12 million acres of Hoosier farmland yielding just shy of one billion bushels of corn. That’s a profit of nearly $3.5 billion. While much of that corn goes to industrial food, biofuels, and livestock feed, we eat our fair share of it straight off the cob, and there’s no better setting for sinking your teeth into a hot, butter-dripping ear of corn than at local festivals and fairs. Even just the smell of roasting corn is beguiling as you stroll past stands staffed by local food vendors and area Lions Clubs, who raise a good portion of their annual charity budgets by helping to cook up corn at the State Fair. And though deep-fried Oreos, Dairy Bar shakes, and that other corny contender, the corn dog, tend to steal the show, true Hoosier food lovers always save some room for the original item.

“I grew up surrounded by cornfields in rural Paragon, Indiana, and I still love it,” says Northside Social executive chef Dean Sample, whose affection for the food of the Indiana State Fair runs so deep he’s offering a four-course pairing of fair-inspired dishes and cocktails on July 20 (call 317-253-0111 for reservations). “My grandparents grew tons of corn every year, as well as my crazy uncle, and we’d always throw a few ears over the coals at backyard barbecues.” Why roasting instead of boiling or grilling with the husk removed? “Roasting is definitely one of the best ways to retain the flavor without leaching out too much of the sugars or the nutrients,” Sample says. “Plus, the corn husk makes a great handle for holding the ear while you eat it.”

Sample, whose dishes often showcase Low Country or Louisiana influences, provides this rich and kicky Bayou riff on Mexican elotes, popular street corn slathered in mayonnaise and grated cheese. But you can serve yours with just butter and salt if you prefer. “My wife and I often dress up our corn with Cajun seasoning when we get it at the fair,” Sample says, “so that was my inspiration.”

You can roast your corn more slowly over charcoal, if you prefer. But the oven is quicker and provides more even heat. Be sure not to remove the husks when cleaning, and take care to cover all the kernels when replacing the husks. 

Read through the entire recipe before you get started, including the notes at the end. And we’d love to see your handiwork. Post your pictures on social media and tag us at @IndyMonthly or use hashtag #INStateFairAtHome.

Roasted Corn with Cajun Seasoning, Remoulade, and Parmesan

Serves 3-4

Ingredients:

Corn

  • 8 ears of corn, preferably local, in the husk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)

Cajun Seasoning

  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  •  2 ½ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

Remoulade Sauce

  • 2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Crystal (or other brand) hot sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

Corn ingredients prepped for roastingTerry Kirts

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Gently pull back husks on ears of corn, making sure not to detach. Remove silks and trim any dry ends of ears of corn. Place husk back over corn, smoothing to cover kernels fully. Place ears of corn in a single layer on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast corn for 10-15 minutes, depending on size of ears.
  2. While corn roasts, prepare Cajun seasoning (if using). Place all seasonings in a small bowl and stir until well combined. For remoulade (if using), add all ingredients to a medium bowl and stir to combine.
  3. Remove corn from oven and rest until ears are cool enough to handle. Pull back husks and brush ears liberally on all sides with melted butter. If not using Cajun seasoning and remoulade, season with salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste.
  4. If using Cajun seasoning and remoulade, sprinkle seasoning mixture in an even layer over ears. Brush thick layer of remoulade over kernels, making sure to cover all sides. Sprinkle parmesan cheese evenly over corn, pressing gently to adhere. Return corn to oven and roast for an additional 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted and just beginning to brown.
A graduate of IU’s Master of Fine Arts program in creative writing, Terry Kirts hails from a town in Illinois so small it didn’t have a restaurant until he was in the 8th grade. Since 2000, he’s more than made up for the dearth of eateries in his childhood, logging hundreds of meals as the dining critic for WHERE Indianapolis, Indianapolis Woman, and NUVO before joining Indianapolis Monthly as a contributing editor in 2007. A senior lecturer in creative writing at IUPUI, Terry has published his poetry and creative nonfiction in a number of literary journals and anthologies, including Gastronomica, Alimentum, and Home Again: Essays and Memoirs from Indiana, and he’s the author of the poetry collection To the Refrigerator Gods, published by Seven Kitchens Press in 2011.
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