Gumbo-Spiced Corn & Okra with Bacon & Tomato
"Cornfield Ablaze" happens to be the title of a lovely, upbeat and very romantic song by one of my favorite bands, Prefab Sprout- but it is also the expression that sprang to mind whilst I was enjoying this dish today! The corn, which is usually so super sweet and
mild, was nicely spicy and had plenty of fire to it by the time I was finished preparing it!
I had also brought some lovely fresh okra home from the market hall and tender, young shallots... they were all just screaming to be used together! But the sad truth is that I am normally not a fan of corn at all and find it to be (obviously) sweet... but not much more
than that! But in any case, I do like a challenge and so I decided to do something a little more unusual with it...
I started this dish off by frying the finely diced bacon first and then adding the corn and shallots and turning up the heat- this was 1 cob of corn and 1 tablespoon of bacon per serving. Soon, the bacon became dark and crispy, the corn golden and toasty and the shallots nicely browned off and at that point, I scooped everything out of the pan, then returned it to the heat with a little splash of olive oil, a little chopped garlic and the okra.
I started the okra frying and sprinkled it with the following mix of spices: paprika, cayenne, cumin, fennel seed, chili flakes, black pepper, white pepper, allspice, nutmeg, just a half teaspoon of each. Of course, the spices began to stick to the bottom of the frying pan as it was now too dry, so I added a splash of white wine to deglaze it and to bring up all of the good flavors that had fried into the pan whilst the bacon and corn had been added...
Whilst the okra was now bubbling away, I returned the corn and a good pinch of finely chopped parsley, oregano and thyme. I kept the heat turned up high so that the wine would reduce down and added a pat of tomato paste into the mix to help it along the way. When it was nearly all dissolved away, I added a handful of cherry tomatoes which had simply been cut in half to help them cook more quickly, without them cooking away to nothing- it is nice to have the extra color, flavor and texture in the mix!
I added a squeeze of lime juice and a final sprinkle of finely chopped parsley before serving and have to say that the result was the most wonderful dish using corn I have ever made! This would have been great as a side dish to grilled chicken, fish or even steak, but this evening it was fine just as it was! Nope- let me take that back... it wasn't "fine"- it was really terrific! Try it out and see!