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What's Cooking? - Posted July 28, 2017 9:22 a.m.
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Photos by Shannon Richardson

Summer Corn

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Corn is one of the most common and readily available foods known to mankind. “It’s one of nature’s most predominate crops,” says Jessica Higgins of Girasol Cafe & Bakery. “It’s one of the most versatile ingredients there is, kind of a grain and kind of a vegetable.” But sometimes, she says, plain old corn needs to be “jazzed up.” Just in time for the fresh summer corn crop, she provides us a few of her favorite ways to enjoy it.

To begin, she loves replacing the English muffin in a classic eggs benedict with a modified corn cake. Using a corn-and-onion fritter for the base, “you get a little twist and a little more flavor underneath those eggs than with dough.” Her recipe for pickled corn salsa makes an excellent relish for bratwurst, burgers and summer cookout foods. Higgins’ corn dip combines corn, cream, and chiles to produce a refreshing companion to chips on a hot day. And last year, during a vacation in Oaxaca, Mexico, Higgins found herself becoming obsessed with elotes, or Mexican street corn. “I ate it for four days straight,” she says, laughing. This grilled corn-on-the-cob recipe is easy to prepare and “as traditional as you can get.”


Corn Fritters Benedict
1/3 cup flour
¾ teaspoon baking powder
1 red onion, thinly julienned
1 medium russet potato, large grate
14 ounces corn (fresh preferred or frozen)
½ cup parmesan cheese, grated
1/3 cup green onion, thin-sliced diagonally
½ cup sour cream
2 eggs
2 ounces canola oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine flour and baking powder; stir to incorporate. Make a well in center of mixture and add oil, eggs and sour cream; stir to combine. Pull in dry ingredients; mix well. Add onion, potato, corn, cheese, and salt and pepper. Portion onto lightly oiled or buttered skillet; cook over medium heat until bottom is set like a pancake; flip and cook other side. We poached our eggs and chose to use candied red chile bacon; cook yours to your liking.

Easy Hollandaise Sauce
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
8 ounces hot, melted butter

Use whisk to blend yolks, juice and Dijon. When butter is hot, very slowly begin emulsifying it into egg mixture, being careful not to break the sauce. Season to taste.

Makes 4 to 6 servings


Fresh Corn and Crab Skillet Dip
6 cloves garlic, roasted, peeled and mashed
2 roasted red bell peppers, peeled
6 ounces mayonnaise
6 ounces cream cheese
1 ½ pounds fresh corn
½ cup green onions, sliced diagonally
8 ounces grated cheese (cheddar, pepper jack, Gruyere)
12 to 16 ounces cooked crab meat (lump or claw; make sure there's no cartilage)

Heat oven to 380 degrees. Saute corn in skillet with roasted garlic until caramelized. Combine mayonnaise and cream cheese; add in corn and remaining ingredients. Stir well, pour into cast-iron skillet, and bake until top is bubbly and golden. Garnish with green onions or cilantro.

Makes 6 to 8 servings


Elotes (Mexican Street Corn)
4 fresh ears corn, stripped but with husks left on
1 cup mayonnaise or Greek yogurt, with juice of 1 lime
Chile powder
Cotija cheese crumbles
Cilantro
Fresh limes

Butter corn and cook on char-broiler or grill. Rotate as needed, allowing it to char slightly but not burn. When finished, smear with either mayonnaise or Greek yogurt. Sprinkle with chile powder and Cotija cheese. Garnish with cilantro. Squeeze fresh lime juice over top to finish.

Makes 2 to 4 servings


Quick Pickled Corn
1 pound fresh corn, removed from cobb
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 red or green bell pepper, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, washed and stemmed
Salt, pepper, and granulated garlic to taste
2 pint jars

Brine
1 cup white vinegar
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt

Combine vegetables and equally fill jars. Boil brine, making sure sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over vegetables. Seal jars, cool, and keep refrigerated up to 1 month.

Makes 2 pint jars

Meet the Cook: Jessica Higgins of Girasol Cafe & Bakery


When your mom regularly wins amateur chili competitions and state fair prizes for her salsa, you tend to know your way around a recipe or two. That’s the environment in which Jessica Higgins was raised. “I’ve cooked all my life,” Jessica says. “My grammy was a cook, my mother was a darn good cook, and I grew up in the kitchen with them.”

A graduate of New Mexico State University’s School of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management, Higgins immersed herself in a corporate hospitality career. “I’ve been in kitchens ever since. I never went to the other [hotel] side,” she says, laughing. She worked for Aramark and Sodexho Marriott, an international food services company headquartered in France, before taking a position with Flying Star Cafe, a multi-location Albuquerque chain known for its artisanal baking. “I’ve worked with chefs from all over the world,” says Higgins. “I’ve hosted chefs from Spain and worked with them in the kitchens.” Her most recent kitchen environment included experts from Holland, France and San Francisco. “I met a lot of interesting characters.”

After Jessica’s father, Cliff Higgins, died in 2013, she departed Albuquerque to join her mother, Jeana Higgins, in Amarillo. “I was looking for something to do,” she says, when an opportunity presented itself in the former location of Black Forest Bakery, tucked behind the Toot’n Totum at Holyoke and Coulter. Jessica and Jeana combined resources to open Girasol Cafe & Bakery in early 2016. Jessica describes the business as “a little gleam in my eye for so long” that finally became a reality. Girasol is Spanish for “sunflower” and is a word that reminds Jessica of her father.

Today, both Jeana and Jessica operate the artisan bakery, serving fresh, creative fare to a dedicated lunch clientele. Popular dishes include the turkey pot pie and the duo’s turkey-avocado-Swiss sandwich, served on scratch-baked whole-wheat bread. “People come in all the time and ask ‘Do you make this or that? Do you make it from scratch?’” Jessica’s answer, of course, is yes. Everything at Girasol is made from scratch. “I think there’s a standard in this town where people are expecting mixes or powders. But everything we touch here is so labor-intensive because it is all from scratch. All real ingredients.”

Earlier this summer, the cafe purchased a new piece of equipment designed to ease the heavy labor: a dough sheeter. “Instead of us having to use our arms, it rolls doughs for us,” she explains. “So we’ve branched out into some laminated doughs like croissants and puff pastries. With the same dough, we can do danishes. We could have done these earlier but it took a lot more work.”

From the flaky new bakery items to its popular Saturday brunch, Girasol continues to attract new customers. “The word of mouth is spreading like wildflowers,” she says. “Every day is almost a record day.”

by Jason Boyett

Jason has written more than a dozen books and is the host and creator of “Hey Amarillo”, a local interview podcast. Visit heyamarillo.com and jasonboyett.com.
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