This is the single most requested item on the Esca menu in the summer and early fall, when fresh corn is at its peak in the Northeast. I roast the corn to intensify its sweetness and give it an understated smoky flavor. When you're toasting the walnuts, watch them carefully-do not walk away from the pan, even for a moment, as they go from toasted to burned in seconds.
*Cook's Note: Many people think white corn varieties are sweeter than their yellow counterparts. Not so. In fact, the most important thing to know about buying corn is when it was picked. Corn's natural sugar turns to starch the longer it's been off the stalk.
It's worth it to use an artisanal domestic goat cheese like Coach Farm here. It has a cleaner taste and creamier texture.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Prepare a charcoal fire. Grill the corn over the fire until lightly charred, about 3 minutes. Cut off the narrow end of the cob. Hold the ear with one hand, the flat end resting on a cutting board, and cut the kernels from the cob. Put the kernels in a bowl. Repeat with each ear of corn. Set the corn kernels aside.
Put the walnuts on a baking tray and toast in the oven for 3 minutes, or until they begin to give off an aroma. Remove from the oven and set aside.
In a large saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the rosemary oil. Slightly crush the toasted walnuts in your hand and add to the pan along with the braised mushrooms. Saute for 1 minute. Add the corn kernels, stir to combine, and saute for 3 minutes, until the corn is hot. Add the butter and 2 tablespoons of the grated goat cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
Put the arugula leaves in a mixing bowl. Dress them with most of the rosemary oil and season with salt and pepper. To serve, spoon the corn mixture into the center of four serving plates and sprinkle with half the remaining goat cheese. Top with the arugula and the rest of the goat cheese. Drizzle each plate with some of the remaining rosemary oil.
For the Braised Mushrooms:
Trace the diameter of a large straight-sided saute pan on parchment paper and cut out the circle. This will serve as the pan's lid.
Heat the olive oil in the saute pan over a medium flame until hot but not smoking. Add the shallots and cook stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the butter, wine, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer, then add the mushrooms. Toss, then cover with the circle of parchment paper. Cook the mushrooms at a low simmer for 30 minute, stirring occasionally. They should be very tender. Season with more salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Additional recipes courtesy Pasternack, David and Ed Levine. The Young Man and the Sea, Recipes and Crispy Fish Tales from Esca. New York: Artisan, 2007.
For the Rosemary Oil:
Place the olive oil in a small saucepan and add the rosemary. Heat over a low flame until the oil is warm, but not hot. Reserve until the oil is cool. Strain and discard the rosemary sprigs.