Originally published by The Seattle Times on August 6, 2023
Written by Melissa Clark
The beginning of corn season requires speed and simplicity. You want the fastest, easiest way to get that pile of evanescently sweet, nubby cobs on the table, ready for butter-slathering and gleeful chomping. A dip in boiling water, a quick sear on the grill or even a zap in the microwave all make the most of those fleeting first ears without much fuss.
But, as the season advances, the desire to mix it up inevitably sets in. Now is the time for recipes that require a bit more time and work, yet are absolutely worth the delayed gratification.
My basil chicken with corn and jalapeños, a sheet-pan meal that brings out the more complex side of summer corn, is made for this moment. Preparing it isn’t hard, but you will need a half-hour at the very least to marinate the chicken in mayonnaise, basil, garlic and a few tablespoons of brine from a jar of pickled jalapeños.
While you’re off doing something (or nothing) else, the brine and mayonnaise work their magic together, adding both salt and spice, and locking in the juiciness of boneless chicken thighs. The egg in the mayonnaise helps the skinless meat turn golden as it roasts, which it does more effectively than oil alone.
I toss the pickled jalapeños with the corn kernels, then scatter the mixture around the thighs so that the corn caramelizes as it roasts, the jalapeños mellow and the fat from the chicken brings it all together.
The simplest way I’ve found for cutting the corn kernels from their cobs is to lay the shucked ear down on the cutting board, then slice off the kernels, rotating the ear as I go. Standing the ears up — whether in a bowl or balanced in the center tube of a Bundt pan — always sends the kernels flying all over the place, at least in my kitchen. Use whatever method works best for you, of course, but save those cobs. They lend loads of flavor and body to stocks and soups.
When you first add the corn mixture to the pan, it may seem like a lot, nearly burying the chicken, but rest assured the corn shrinks a lot as it cooks. In the end, it’s exactly right: a generous helping to celebrate the moment when corn season reaches its glorious peak.
Sheet-Pan Chicken Thighs With Spicy Corn
Total time: 55 minutes, plus at least 30 minutes’ marinating
Servings: 4 to 6
- 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- 1¾ teaspoons fine sea or table salt
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- ¼ cup finely chopped basil, plus more for garnish
- 2 garlic cloves, finely grated or minced
- 1/3 cup chopped pickled jalapeños, plus brine from the jar
- 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (from about 4 ears)
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 5 scallions, thinly sliced
- 1 jalapeño, sliced into rings
- 1 lime, halved
- Season the chicken all over with ¾ teaspoon of salt. In a large bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, basil, garlic and 2 tablespoons jalapeño brine. Add the chicken to the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes and up to 6 hours.
- Heat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, toss together corn, pickled jalapeños, olive oil, remaining 1 teaspoon salt and half of the scallions (save remaining scallions for serving).
- Arrange the chicken on a baking sheet, spacing it out. Roast for 12 minutes. Spoon the corn mixture onto the empty parts of the baking sheet. Drizzle chicken and corn with oil. Continue to roast until the chicken is cooked through, 10 to 15 minutes longer, stirring the corn once while roasting.
- Turn the broiler on high and broil the chicken and corn until golden brown in spots, 2 to 4 minutes (watch carefully so it doesn’t burn, though a little blistering is nice).
- Garnish chicken and corn with basil, remaining scallions and fresh jalapeño slices. Sprinkle with more pickled jalapeño brine and lime juice. Serve hot or at room temperature.