One of the best parts of summer (and fall) is the fresh produce. We have worked with fresh sweet corn a number of ways, and they all let the wonderful corn flavor shine through. This dish uses some other vegetables – celery and onion – but is flexible enough to for variations. You could use green peppers, jalapenos, carrots, peas, whatever you have on-hand.
This casserole could also be made meatless if you preferred, or you could use something like diced ham instead of the bacon. Since the corn is naturally sweet, something salty pairs well. You could also make this super-deluxe by adding in crab meat or lobster!
A white sauce, or béchamel, serves as the binder for all the ingredients. I use fresh bread crumbs on the top, which browns and crisps while the casserole bakes, creating a “crust.” The corn and celery bake in the sauce, but maintain enough crunch to provide a mix of textures throughout the dish. Once all the ingredients are assembled, this dish comes together easily and bakes in less than a half hour. Let it rest and cool off a bit before serving – this will allow it to firm back up a little.
Corn and Bacon Casserole
½ lb. bacon – cooked semi-crisp and roughly chopped
3 TBSP. butter
3 TBSP. flour
1 ½ cup milk (at room temperature)
½ tsp. Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 small onion – diced fine
½ cup chopped celery
5 ears of fresh corn – corn removed from cob OR 1 bag (12-16oz.) frozen corn, thawed
½ cup grated cheese (your choice)
1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs (if you can make fresh crumbs, use Panko-style bread crumbs or another topping you like)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Cook bacon until most of the fat has rendered out and it is starting to crisp. I use the “oven-fry” method for bacon because I find it make a lot less mess than frying bacon on the stove top. Once the bacon is cooked, chop it roughly with a knife and set aside.
In a large sauce pan, make your roux for the white sauce. Start by melting the butter over medium heat. To the melted butter add the flour and whisk until the flour has been absorbed into the butter and the mixture is smooth. Add milk and continue to whisk over medium heat until mixture begins to thicken (this will happen as it approaches the boiling point). Turn heat to low and add in salt, black pepper, dry mustard and red pepper. Blend in. Add celery and onions and stir in for a minute, then add corn and bacon. Remove from heat.
Pour mixture into a well-greased two quart casserole dish. Sprinkle grated cheese on top (cheddar, Colby-jack, pepper jack, whatever you like) and then cover cheese with bread crumbs. Place in oven and bake for 25 minutes.
Topping should be browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes and serve. Enjoy!