Corn on the cob but not as you knew it before 2021: spicy, charred, utterly delicious and made in the oven. And the perfect match with dukkah seasoning.
Who invented corn ribs?
The ultra-hyped dish/snack/food hack - corn ribs - was everywhere all the time, on Instagram, YouTube and TikTok last summer. Its creation is ascribed, variously, to Max Ng, chef at Momofuku Ssam Bar in New York; to a random TikToker and to Yotam Ottolenghi, who certainly popularised it serving them in his Rovi restaurant.
It sounds just like an Ottolenghi dish: an ordinary foodstuff, twisted – and here literally TWISTED! – with ingenious spice and flavour and cooking method. Can’t deep fry corn on the cob? Think again!
Whatever the provenience, it is a truly delightful snack and the old corn on the cob goes into an entirely new dimension. It becomes slightly chewy, wonderfully scorched but bursting with juices provided your corn was spanking fresh of course.
It figures – deep frying makes things exactly as delicious as messy and unhealthy it is. Plus it is what makes those strips of corn bend into the shape that actually resembles roasted pork ribs.
Do corn ribs have to be deep fried?
And here’s the thing: they do not! Maybe they are not going to be as bendy-wendy and perhaps they’ll take a lot longer, but in my view they turn out completely just as good when baked in very hot fan oven.
I know: other people probably came up with exactly the same idea but I was incredibly pleased with myself when mine turned out great the first time.
I briefly saw a few references to air fryer-made ones and worked out that I could achieve exactly the same result in a fan oven, without that useless piece of kit.
How to make corn ribs in the oven?
Provided you have fan (convection) oven, whack it up to maximum temperature and preheat well. A heavy roasting tin, one that won’t buckle in the heat, will be needed too.
The ‘ribs’ of corn should be well oiled. It is tempting to use olive oil for the flavour but a neutral, vegetable or nut oil works better towards charring the kernels.
You could just slip the tray into the oven and leave it there for 20 minutes, but I think it pays to turn the ribs around every now and then with tongs, so they brown and scorch all over more evenly.
How to prepare corn on the cob for ribs?
That is the tricky part and I am deadly serious: it’s VERY easy to end up with a knife wound in your hand. You must be careful and wear either those heavy metal gloves that are used with kitchen mandolin, some old leather gloves or at least wrap tea towels around your palms. The cob of the corn is a tough old stick!
To cut a cob in quarters trim both ends and place it upright on a board. Now you need to slice it down with a large, sharp knife using rocking motions, like a seesaw.
Once you cut it in two, do the same with each half to obtain quarters. Invariably, a couple of ribs will break up but the ribs will be no less tasty even in smaller pieces.
The ribs (and pieces) now have to be coated with oil and travel into the furnace.
How to season corn ribs?
My recipe is sourced from Ottolenghi, at his Rovi restaurant where the ribs are served as a snack. And you really could not better the seasoning: once out of the oven the corn ribs are brushed with unsalted butter, sprinkled liberally with a mix of smoked paprika and chipotle (or mild chilli) powder.
Then, the genius element: maple syrup, generously, and some lime juice to cut through the sweetness. The end product is to die for already, before the best part is sprinkled on it: dukkah.
What is dukkah?
Dukkah, or duqqa, is Middle Eastern and Egyptian seasoning, used as a dip or sprinkle with fresh bread or vegetables. It’s a mix of herbs, seeds and nuts, it’s potent and fragrant, and I can’t believe I had lived so long without having tasted this combination of hazelnuts, cumin, coriander et al.
There are many variations in terms of ingredients and mine is swiped from Australian taste.com.au. Nuts, hazel and cashew in this instance, are toasted – and that, as you know, ALWAYS makes a great start to a dish.
Seeds, cumin, fennel and coriander plus sesame (though the latter are hardly in the same ‘seed’ category) are toasted next. Everything, warm and fragrant as the devil, is then pounded in a pestle and mortar with salt flakes until crushed but not pulverised.
Can you blitz it in a food processor or a spice mill? You sure could though considering ‘dukkah’ means ‘to pound’, I’d be dubious if what you end up with will be the right stuff. Joking aside, you can but make sure it’s not blitzed too much. Dukkah must be chunky.
And that, hot and sweet and spicy and juicy corn ribs, dipped in nutty dukkah, was my snack of the summer. The hype completely deserved, and an Ottolenghi experience at home to boot.
More corn recipes
My favourite trio, chicken corn and feta, at their best and in one dish.
This is a riff on paella Valenciana: rice with corn and chorizo.
And if you have never had sweetcorn cooked with bacon, you must try now! Bacon, sweetcorn and avocado salad.