The idea for cooking with corn silks came from two places. The first was a tweet from Jeffrey Stoneberger which asked "you ever fried corn silks?" My reply was no, only charred them on the grill, not really utilizing them. Then, in a separate conversation in the kitchen at Bourbon Steak with Chad, I was told about a soup made with corn cobs, husks and the silk, using the actual corn only for garnish. I realized that if we were to utilize the entire corn cob I had better get on this corn silk thing. With our first corn of the season I set about utilizing the ingredients. The husks were roasted. The corn cobs were scraped for fresh polenta. The spent cobs were grilled and charred for chowder base. The silks were trimmed and reserved for something.
That something was a several step process. After they were cleaned we tasted them. Not so great. So we put them in the dehydrator. When they were dry we tasted them, not so great. So then I took a nest and wrapped it around pork belly and sauteed it. The results were, not so great. This morning I decided to fry them. Dried they looked like cotton candy, fine strands stuck together in a wild tangle. I heated a pan of rice bran oil up to 350°F and fried the silks. These results were better than the rest but still not so great.
So, I forgot about the oil on the stove and when I turned around it was up to 400°F. Since it was hotter and we have had good results frying at high heat I fried another nest. Eureka. Finally. The silks fried quickly and puffed slightly. I removed them from the oil and drained them on a paper towel. They looked like a birds nest.
Now we were onto something. I set about frying a few more tufts of corn silk and seasoned them with salt, cayenne, nutmeg, cumin, smoked paprika and lime zest. We then put a pot of water on to cook our 5 minute and 15 second eggs. While the water was coming to a boil we pillaged the garden to find accents for the nest.
Once the eggs were cooked, we cooled them down, peeled them and gently rewarmed them in cultured butter. To finish we topped them with smoked salt and black pepper and gently laid them in their nests. Delicious.