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Tales of the Testers: $39.79 sauce, worth every cent

Corn sauce from Sean Brock. (Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

The recipe's reference struck me as odd, referring to "corn juice" that turned into a silky sauce once a few tablespoons of butter were whisked in. It was one step in the kind of multipart directions that readers tend to scan and think: Too much going on here. I'll pass.

Then I contacted the recipe's author, chef Sean Brock in Charleston, S.C., and the clouds broke open, rays of golden sun filled the kitchen and I might have heard a choir on high.

It's not the precious small amount of milky stuff that comes from freshly cut kernels, he said: "You need a juice extractor. Push uncooked corn, as fresh as you can get, into the machine and out comes this lovely juice."

Space is at a premium here in humble test-kitchenland. How often would I use something with the footprint of a food processor on steroids? Curiosity (and no other last-minute volunteers) got the better of me, so I picked up a $37.99 Black and Decker Home Fruit and Vegetable Juice Extractor at Rodman's. Three ears of corn at the New Morning Farm Market stand on the way home: $1.80.

Those singing angels were on to something.

I love, love, love the taste of corn. On or off the cob, a fresh tortilla, black bean and corn salad with scallions and a splash of balsamic vinegar, the great Cambodian grilled corn we mention in every fourth Free Range chat. A brick of sweet cornbread's my favorite guilty pleasure on any trip to Whole Foods Market; I cut off small rectangles of it over the course of a few days -- you know the trick -- but it all goes down the same hatch. You know how I feel about Thomas Keller's ode to creamed corn.

The extractor was easy to use. Corn kernels and the subsequent pulp make a mess, because you have to run them through a few times. But what comes out is slightly thick but not at all like what you'd get if you pureed the corn in a food processor then strained it (I experimented). Every bit of corny essence comes through; deeply sweet, and tasting more like corn than a bite into a just-steamed cob. Three ears yielded about 1 cup of liquid.

When that liquid hit a hot pan, the chef was spot-on in describing the smell of it: hot buttered popcorn. The heat causes the juice to thicken almost instantly. A bit of the juice browns; keep stirring, add the butter or take it off the heat as soon as the aroma hits your nose.

I bet corn purists would prefer the sauce straight up, without the butter. But the chef's recipe is definitely enhanced by the simple extravagance. So readers, whether or not you find great flounder fillets, soak the heirloom beans overnight or construct a pork broth, I encourage you to make the sauce. It would be dynamite over simply grilled vegetables. Or on a shoe.

To start to justify the extractor purchase, I moved on to juicing tomatoes, carrots with a little leftover mint, and mango for lassi. The evening got very late, so the sink stayed full till morning. But the corn's a real discovery. Only my impending vacation kept me from juicing for the neighbors.

This machine will not end up at a yard sale, is all I'm saying. And I'm adding chef Brock's corn sauce to my list of all-time favorite things to do with an ear.

Do you extract? Feed me ideas.

-- Bonnie S. Benwick

By The Food Section  |  August 26, 2010; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Recipes , Tales of the Testers  | Tags: Bonnie S. Benwick, Tales of Testers, recipes  
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An Acme centrifugal juicer, with its basket lined with a strip of curtain fabric, minimizes the mess, and strains out even black raspberry seeds.

Posted by: jv26 | August 26, 2010 10:07 PM | Report abuse

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