Sagaponack Corn Pudding

Sagaponack Corn Pudding  | Image:  Laura Messersmith

Sagaponack Corn Pudding | Image: Laura Messersmith

Each week I follow along with Ina Garten (aka the Barefoot Contessa) and attempt to recreate one of her dishes in my tiny New York City kitchen. The catch? This is my version of cooking school and I’m making these recipes for the first time. I’ll share both my successes and um, challenges, along the way and we’ll see if I can keep up with the Contessa!

Episode: “Tex Mex Homecoming”

The Set-up: Jeffrey’s on his way home for the weekend and Ina has a Tex Mex themed dinner planned.

The Menu: Sagaponack Corn Pudding, Guacamole, Tequila Lime Chicken, Frozen Key Lime Pie

0:47 – It’s Friday night and Jeffrey is on his way home, but Ina says that instead of regular roast chicken she’s doing a Tex Mex twist. He’s not going to know what hit him!

1:20 – First up Guacamole and naturally Ina has the most perfect avocados. I rarely find any in our store that are ripe but still un-dented. Yes, I’m jealous.

2:08 – We’re on the same page when it comes to making guacamole chunky and not overly pureed, but I’m not in favor of hot sauce in guacamole. Why ruin that cool green with spice?

3:32 – Off to the liquor store for tequila – Jose Gold for the Tequila Lime Chicken and the shop keeper recommends Sauza for margaritas. Noted.

4:03 – I’m an Ina Super Fan so I can tell this is an old episode because we’re in her house still and they haven’t quite nailed the tone yet. A few weird asides about jalapeno “giving my chicken attitude!”

4:17 – Just checked the date – it’s from 2003 and must be one of the first episodes ever!

5:34 – Okay, let’s focus here. It’s Frozen Key Lime Pie time, which so far involves the graham cracker crust. Pro Tip #1: Use a measuring cup to press the crust into the pan evenly.

9:41 – While the crust bakes, we’ve moved on to the Sagaponack Corn Pudding. Ina says she tries to balance out the flavors in a menu, so with something spicy she decided to serve the creamy corn pudding.

10:56 - FYI – this recipe is inspired by a similar version by Ina’s friend at Loaves & Fishes located in, you guessed it: Sagaponack!

11:13 – The corn pudding has chopped fresh basil in it, and I’m with Ina – basil + corn is one of my favorite combinations.

12:22 – The pudding is in the oven and now we get a shot of Mr. Garten speeding along toward home.

13:50 – Back to make the filling for the Frozen Key Lime Pie. It contains sweetened condensed milk and I don’t think I’ve ever cooked with it before, but apparently helps the custard to set up with no cooking.

14:09 – Aww, Jeffrey has arrived and now it’s margarita o’clock, plus some Guacamole. Woot!

19:31 – Now on to the main event: Tequila Lime Chicken. I’ve actually made this before and it is spicy for sure – chili powder, jalapeno and garlic!

20:18 – This is more of a logistical, tv show question, but how is Ina marinating this in about 15 minutes when she says that a few hours or overnight is the best?

21:42 – No time to fret because we’re on to the now-frozen key lime pie for the decorating and attractiveness step. Pro Tip #2: Decorate with an ingredient, in this case: lime wedges.

23:04 – Fun Fact for the Super Fans: there’s a shot of the back yard pre-barn and it’s kinda weird seeing it totally empty.

24:37 – It seems that the jokes about Jeffrey being inept with grills go waay back; here we are teasing him about calling the fire department. Perhaps it’s deserved because he manages to light the bag of charcoal on fire while replenishing the coals…

26:48 – Grilling has begun with Jeffrey acting as sous chef while Ina sets the table for dinner with a bowl of limes as décor.

27:55 – The corn pudding is out of the oven, and Jeffrey manages to stick the landing with the chicken, so dinner appears to be coming together quite nicely!

28:10 – Time to sit down to dinner – cheers are offered to their combined efforts and then key lime pie.

29:29 – Jeffrey’s compliments go way back too – he tells Ina that it’s the best key lime pie she’s made yet! Aww.

Final Thoughts:
I’m 100% with Ina on balancing the flavors and spice in a meal – all one note is so wearing after awhile.

Ina has been making key lime pie for 30+ years and I have yet to attempt it. Maybe summer 2016 will be my year?

Watching reeeeally old episodes is simultaneously weird and fun. The beginnings are there and it’s cool to see how things have evolved.

Sagaponack Corn Pudding   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sagaponack Corn Pudding | Image: Laura Messersmith

Lessons Learned:
Since fresh sweet corn is still available (just barely) I had to make Sagaponack Corn Pudding before autumn takes hold completely. I’ve only tried using a water bath to cook a pudding once before and I’d say it was only moderately successful – recipe mistake or user error, who’s to say? Thankfully this time had a much better outcome.

Corn – This would not be the time to use frozen or canned. For me, the fresh crunch of sweet corn cut from the cob is not something I’m interested in substituting. Make this now, while you still can!

Prep – Cutting the corn kernels directly into a high-sided bowl is so much neater and easier to contain them that way. Just stand the ear end-up in the bowl and cut vertically down each side. The bowl catches 90% and your kitchen doesn’t have little bits all over.

Individual Portions – Rather than make one large pudding, I wanted to make single servings. I followed the directions exactly up to the point of putting the mixture into the baking dish and used 7 oz oven safe ramekins instead. A half-size version of the recipe just filled 6 ramekins and the baking time was exactly the same – 40-45 minutes in a water bath.

Water Bath – I’d recommend testing your baking dish/water bath pan to make sure the dish will fit. Particularly if you’re filling ramekins, I’d recommend portioning them and getting them arranged the way you want in the pan before filling the remaining space with hot water. I boiled it in a tea kettle since my tap water isn’t the hottest.

Make Ahead – If oven space is limited you can make the corn pudding ahead of time and keep it warm for about an hour just by leaving the ramekins in the water bath and setting the entire contraption aside with foil over it. The individual portions also warm up beautifully in the microwave with a damp paper towel over the top, so by all means make a few extra…

Sagaponack Corn Pudding   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sagaponack Corn Pudding | Image: Laura Messersmith

Small Kitchen Friendly?
Mostly… To prep I used a large sauté pan, medium mixing bowl, medium cutting board, chef’s knife, box grater, a liquid measuring cup, measuring spoons, a whisk and a rubber spatula. To cook, you’ll need either a large oven-safe casserole dish or approximately 10 ramekins and a pan large enough (I used a 9x13 pan) to contain the baking dish(es).

The Verdict:
Oh, good lord Sagaponack Corn Pudding is. so. good. The flavors are so beautifully complimentary and the results are deliciously creamy hovering somewhere in the neighborhood of mac and cheese, but with the lightness of a vegetable gratin. I made this recipe as a side with Ina’s Barbecue Chicken and while the chicken was delicious, I’m pretty sure the corn pudding stole the show. I personally prefer the individual portions; if for no other reason than that it’s easier to defend your territory from marauding eaters, made in a larger dish I’m pretty sure there will be a spirited discussion over who get the last spoonful!

Sagaponack Corn Pudding   | Image:   Laura Messersmith

Sagaponack Corn Pudding | Image: Laura Messersmith