Mexican-style Creamed Corn with Chiles, Tomatoes and Cilantro


When I was a kid, my parents would pile me, my sister and two brothers into our two-door sedan, along with a big load of camping equipment, and drive to Nova Scotia for summer holidays with the grandparents. Sometimes we would take the Canadian route along the St. Lawrence River and down through New Brunswick, crossing into Nova Scotia where the far end of the Bay of Fundy leaves miles of red mud flats when the tide is out. Other times we would scoot through New Hampshire and Maine, head up into New Brunswick, and take the ferry from St. John to Digby, Nova Scotia. Always, we stayed at public campgrounds along the way.

Our camping equipment was nothing like today’s lightweight, fast-dry nylon this and that. I’m talking about a big old musty canvas tent, heavy, flannel-lined sleeping bags, a two-burner Coleman stove and a large cooler, lots of food, and, of course, suitcases to keep a family of six clothed for several weeks, all stuffed into the trunk. At least we didn’t have to share space in the backseat with our dog, who was left at home, but even without him/her, it was tight. Four kids squished together in the backseat, windows down, wind whipping through the car. Big SUVs with rows of bucket seating, air conditioning, and movies had not been invented, and for some reason we didn’t have a station wagon.

We seemed to get along OK despite the primitive conditions, happy family that we were. We’d stop for lunch at lakes or brooks, and take a swim. We took a day to do some climbing in the White Mountains. We sat around the campfire at night before piling into the tent to sleep, side by side like sardines in a can.

All of which brings me to corn, a major source of sustenance on these trips. Fresh sweet corn, grown in the fields we passed on the highway and sold at roadside stands. We’d buy a few dozen ears and my mother would boil it on the Coleman and serve it with butter and salt. That’s all we’d have for dinner, plain and simple, each of us chomping through five or six ears before staggering away from the picnic table. I still love corn – who doesn’t? – and when corn season finally arrives, I buy it every Sunday at our local farmers market and lug it home in my grocery pull-cart. But these days my other half and I eat it more sedately along with other things on the plate, sometimes fancied up with cilantro or coconut oil, or roasted on the barbecue.

There are a million ways to eat corn, as you know, and here’s another, as a side dish simmered in cream with onions, garlic, chilies and tomatoes, from James Peterson’s Vegetables. I’ve been making it for years. It’s easy to prepare, goes with just about anything, and can be carried to pot lucks. Another way to celebrate the summers of our youth, and this very best time of year.

Makes 4 side-dish servings

Mexican-style Creamed Corn with Chiles, Tomatoes and Cilantro
  • Makes 4 side-dish servings
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 2 jalapeño chiles, seeded and chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  1. Melt butter in a heavy-bottomed 4-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, poblano peppers and chiles and cook, stirring every couple of minutes, until the onion has turned translucent but hasn’t browned, about 6 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, cream, and the corn kernels. Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes, until the corn is heated through. Stir in the cilantro and cook for 2 minutes more. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.
  • Serves: 4


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