When I was growing up, I had a lot of dolls. And I do mean a lot. Though many were inherited from my sister, I received my fair share (some might say more than) of new ones for birthdays and Christmases. Baby dolls, porcelain dolls, rag dolls; it just seemed that they were drawn to me, like moths to a flame.
By far, the most exciting, longed-for and treasured of these dolls was my American Girl. My sister and I adored this brand of historical “character” dolls, sold through a glossy catalogue filled with doll outfits, doll furniture and all manner of doll accessories, all designed to encourage rampant consumerism in young girls.
Eventually our parents gave in to the whining, and my sister and I were gifted with our very own American Girls. (Yes, even though we were not American girls ourselves; I didn’t think anything of it at the time.) Hilary received Kirsten, the blonde, blue-eyed pioneer girl (yawn), and I Molly, the spunky WWII-era heroine. I remember feeling particularly smug that my doll was cute and modern with braids and glasses, while my sister and most of our friends had prissy, girly, boring dolls instead.
All very interesting, but what does this trip down memory lane have to do with food, some of you might be thinking. I assure you, I do have a point. See, one of the great things about the American Girl brand is the books it publishes. Each doll comes with an introductory story about her character, and has several other companion books available. At some point I found myself the proud owner of The American Girls Cookbook, a collection of recipes from three different characters. I’m not sure which Girl it originated with, but there was one recipe which always intrigued me. Which brings us (finally) to the point of this post: corn fritters.
When I bought two ears of corn from the market on Sunday, I didn’t really have anything more interesting than “roasted, with butter” in mind for them. But by a random stroke of luck I remembered that long-lost corn fritter recipe, and a burning desire to finally try them took hold.
I’m pretty sure the American Girl fritters were nothing more than your basic combination of corn, egg, flour, salt and pepper, which might have sounded divine to my 11-year-old self, but frankly my tastes have since evolved. Luckily, I’m not the only one in the mood for fritters lately: Mark Bittman’s Minimalist column last week featured Arepas, a Venezuelan patty of cornmeal and fresh corn, pumped up with herbs and spices. Deciding this direction was more my style, I set to work.
The result was just what I’d hoped; crisp on the outside, with that tender polenta texture inside. Rich and spicy from the cumin and chili, and bright and vibrant from the coriander and lime juice. I don’t often eat fried things, so this recipe definitely falls into the “treat” category for me. I figured I deserved it, though- after all, I did wait 14 years for these.
Note: I used the Merchant Gourmet brand of instant polenta, but you could easily adapt this to use with another variety. Either way, you’re looking for about one cup of soft polenta for this recipe.
- Spicy Corn Fritters
- adapted from Mark Bittman’s Arepas
- makes 10-12 fritters
- kernels from 1 ear of corn, about 1/2 cup
juice of half a lime (about 2 tsp.)
1/4 cup finely chopped spring onion
1 Tbs. chopped fresh coriander
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground coriander
1/4 tsp. chili flakes
1 1/3 cup water
1/3 cup polenta or cornmeal (the quick-cooking kind)
3 Tbs. vegetable or other neutral oil, for frying
- 1. Mix together the corn, lime juice onion, coriander, salt and spices together in a small bowl and set aside.
2. Bring the water to a boil in a small saucepan. Add the cornmeal in a steady stream and mix with a wooden spoon for about 2 minutes, until thickened (be careful, polenta likes to bubble and splatter).
3. Remove the polenta from the heat and stir in the corn mixture. Set aside to cool slightly. Line a plate with paper towels and set next to the stove.
4. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over medium heat. When hot, spoon in generous tablespoonfuls of batter and flatten slightly with a spatula. Cook for 4-5 minutes on each side, then remove to the towel-lined plate. Serve hot, with any spicy dipping sauce that you like.