Brussel Sprouts, a side dish that will steal the show

 

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Brussel Sprouts have long been misunderstood, overlooked, and forgotten about. The last couple of years we have seen more and more people embracing brussel sprouts, and I happen to be really excited about it.
About a year and a half ago I put them on my menu in a restaurant, and it remains one of the most requested dishes there (I will include that recipe here if requested). Recently I had some brussel sprouts at home, and decided to have a little fun with them for a side dish. It was very well received, really fun to make and I can’t wait to make it again. Give this a try as a side dish the next time you’re having roasted chicken, pork chops, or pot roast for dinner.

What you will need:

1lb Brussel Sprouts, quartered

1/2 Medium onion, diced

2 Potatoes, diced

1 Tbsp Ancho chili powder

2 tsp Ground Cumin

3 Tbsp Bacon Grease (Yes I keep it when I cook bacon)

Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Brussel Sprout “dressing” (optional, recipe included below)

 

Preheat your oven to 350 degree’s, break out your cast iron skillet, and put it on the stove over medium heat.  Once it is heated, add the bacon grease and allow it to melt.  Be careful with how high the heat is, as you do not want the grease to smoke.  Once the grease is melted, add the onions and potatoes to the skillet and let them cook for about two minutes, use a wooden spoon to stir so they cook evenly.  Now add the brussel sprouts, ancho chili powder, cumin, and season with salt and pepper.  Stir to combine everything and to make sure the seasoning is well distributed and allow to cook for another 3-5 minutes.  Give one last stir and place the skillet in the oven for 12-15 minutes to allow everything to roast together.  I do not cook this dish longer than 15 minutes in the oven because I want the brussel sprouts to still have a little bite to them.  I don’t want to cook them until they are cooked to the point of mushiness (is that a word?).  Transfer everything to a serving bowl, and toss with the “dressing” if you’re going to use it, then serve.  There will be more discussion about this dish than any other you serve that night, no matter how well the entree turns out. Enjoy

 

Brussel Sprout “Dressing”.

What you need:

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard

1Tbsp Red Wine Vinegar

1 Tbsp Honey

Kosher salt to taste

2 Tbsp Canola oil (you can also use extra virgin olive oil, or vegetable oil)

 

Combine all of the ingredients except for the oil in a bowl and whisk together.  Continue to whisk and slowly drizzle the oil in to the mixture to create a vinaigrette, or in this case a dressing for the dish.

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Saturday Sauce

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I really can’t claim this recipe at all, this is all Michael Symon, however I’m including it for a specific reason and giving all credit to him. In his book “Live to cook” he has a recipe called Yia Yia’s Sunday Sauce (page 229), and when I first read it I could almost smell and taste the sauce because it just sounded so incredible.
If you haven’t read this book, then you should buy it and read it cover to cover, it will make you a better cook and also give you some awesome recipes to put some incredible food on your table at home. Don’t google recipes from it, go buy the book it is the ethical and morally right thing to do!

The problem I ran in to when I went to gather ingredients to make the sauce is where I live, and that is the reason I’m including this here. All of the ingredients are obtainable, I’m not trying to make it sound like I live completely disconnected from the world, however some of them are only available from the internet, or you are paying such a premium price it’s just not economically worth it to buy them. So I made a few changes to the recipe and ended up with an amazing sauce that has several uses.

I’ll go through the items that I changed out, and explain why then we will get to the recipe:

Canned San Marzano tomatoes- There are a couple of places locally that you can buy these, however they generally run about $8 for a 28oz can. That’s not very cost effective, and my wife would skin me if I bought two cans for a batch of sauce. So obviously I purchased a basic brand of canned tomatoes but I knew by doing so that the end result of the sauce would be less than what it could be. For that reason I also went to the produce department and purchased some sun dried tomatoes. A package of these can last a really long time, and you only need to use one sun dried tomato for each batch of sauce so they are cost effective to buy, if you use them properly.

Meaty Beef Bones- The three grocery stores within reason from my house do not have beef bones available to buy (sad, I know). There are a couple of locations in the area where you could maybe buy some on certain days however the drive wouldn’t be worth it for just one ingredient. With the price of gas what it is, you could be tripling the price of an ingredient just driving to the next town to try and find it.
However, most stores in this area do have Pork Neck Bones available and even though that brings a slightly different flavor profile, it’s still delicious.
So I substitute these two ingredients in the sauce and the end result is a wonderful, versatile and incredibly flavorful sauce.

I use this as a sauce over pasta, as a braising liquid for roast, over white rice with a piece of fish, or just simmer it in a skillet and add an egg or two and finish with some parmesan cheese.

1/4 cup olive oil
1 Large Yellow onion, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, chopped
Kosher salt (to taste)
2 28 ounce cans of canned tomatoes (whole)
1 cup dry white wine
2 pounds pork neck bones
1 bay leaf
1 tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 sun dried tomato

Heat the oil in a large dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook them for 2 or 3 minutes. Add the garlic and then salt and cook for a few minutes longer.
Open the canned tomatoes and squeeze them one by one into the pot, you really want to smash them with your hands, and don’t forget to add the juice from the can’s as well. Add the wine and neck bones, bay leaf, oregano, pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring everything to a simmer then reduce the heat and just let it cook for 6 to 8 hours.
Adjust the seasonings after tasting then remove the bones, and bay leaf.
I usually will use about half of the sauce right away, the other half I let cool to room temperature then put in a freezer bag and freeze for later use. The book says it will be good frozen for up to 2 months, but I have never had it around for that long because I can’t wait to eat it again!

Christmas leftover brunch buffet

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Making Christmas dinner is always a fun day, and when the family is setting around eating and enjoying the offerings that you have made for them it’s always a very satisfying feeling. However, my favorite part of holiday cooking is making something new and different with the leftovers. Behold the holiday brunch buffet!
Lets face it, you have a lot of leftover food, and at some point making a sandwich for the fourth time, no matter how good the ham is gets a little old. So spice it up a little and make a leftover frittata. You can really use anything in a frittata dependent upon the leftovers you have in the fridge.

What you’ll need:

8 Eggs
Leftover Ham, diced
6-8 spoonfuls of leftover broccoli casserole
6-8 spoonfuls of leftover mac and cheese
6-8 spoonfuls of leftover dressing
3 Tbsp butter
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Leftover gravy (warmed and set to the side)

Start by preheating your oven to 350 degree’s and putting a cast iron skillet on to the stove over medium heat, and add the butter so it will begin to melt. Cut enough of the ham up in to small pieces to cover the bottom of the skillet and place them in the skillet and allow them to start heating through.
Add the spoonfuls of the leftover foods, broccoli casserole, mac and cheese, and dressing.
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Crack the eggs in to a bowl, season them with salt and pepper and then whisk them together.
Stir the food in the skillet as it warms through, then level it off so that everything is about the same depth. Pour the eggs in the skillet making sure all of the cracks and crevices are filled in throughout the skillet. At this point it is really important to not touch anything in the skillet, just let the eggs begin to cook.
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Keep a close eye on the skillet as you should begin to see the eggs bubble in different areas of the skillet (5-7 minutes). When this happens, transfer the skillet to the oven and let it bake for about an additional 10-15 minutes. You will know that it is done when you grab the handle of the skillet and shake it back and forth and the center of the frittata is set. If it still looks loose, you need to let it cook for a few more minutes.
Once it is cooked through remove it from the oven and place it on the stove top to allow it to rest/set. After about 8-10 minutes you will be able to run a spatula around the side of the frittata and take it out of the skillet in one piece and place it on a serving platter. Cut it in to however many pieces you like, and place the warm bowl of gravy beside of it.
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If your going to go for the full blown brunch buffet you may want to include some other items for people to chose from. I put out everything “cold” that we have leftover. This morning it was pasta salad, macaroni salad, deviled eggs, cold turkey, which I also put a loaf a bread out, miracle whip, and pickles to make it easy to build a cold turkey sandwich. And of course you have to have some dessert options.
This part of holiday cooking means as much to me if not more than the big dinner does. This is an opportunity for just those of us who live in the house to have another chance to eat a special meal together. It’s very little work, and worth a lot more than the effort you have to put it to it.

Keep in mind that there aren’t really any set rules for making the frittata, I make these all the time using a wide variety of ingredients and following the same steps listed above.
Give something like this a shot before everyone in the house goes back to the day to day work schedule, school or whatever else you have going on that takes away from time together.

Make your own BBQ Sauce

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Quiet a few years ago I had the idea to make my own BBQ sauce. I had long had the approach that there were good products available at the store (and there is), and all I had to do to enhance them was to add an ingredient or two. Maybe a little more brown sugar, perhaps some honey or bourbon and I would have something that was a little more exciting than something that had been setting in a box or on a shelf for as many as six months. I had the basic idea on what all goes in to a good BBQ sauce, however it wasn’t something I had ever really stood over a pot and done.

This lead me to go to the store one weekend and buy several ingredients and make some BBQ sauce at home and see if it really could be better than my favorite national brand. After a lot of headaches, and messes in the kitchen I finally had a good understanding of how to put together a sauce that truly is different than what you can buy, and I’ll include the recipe here.
Not long after coming up with a recipe that everyone seemed to really enjoy, I couldn’t help buy wonder about the several different styles of BBQ sauces from around the country. Memphis style, the two different Carolina styles and I was even inspired by a restaurant owner to develop a Alabama mayonnaise based sauce. Over the years I have been asked about bottling the sauce, selling the sauce or just the recipes themselves, and of course I have considered them all. For now, I’m just going to put one of them here where I know I will get the proper credit, and hopefully someone can get as much enjoyment out of them as me and my family has.

The most popular sauce in this area at least is a Kansas City style sauce. It’s sweet, with a tangy side to it and very easy to make. If I get some response from posting this one, I will include the other sauces as updates.

K.C. Sauce

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups ketchup (not Heinz, see notes)
1/2 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon hot sauce (I prefer Franks)
1 cup brown sugar
1 yellow onion, diced
5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp canola oil

1) Place a large sauce pot on the stove over medium heat and add the canola oil until it is heated, then add the onions and garlic. Let them heat through until the onions become translucent, stirring occasionally. You don’t want the onions or the garlic to begin to brown you’re just trying to soften them and have them release their flavor.

2) While the onions and garlic are cooking, combine all of the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl and mix well with a whisk. You want to make sure all of the dry ingredients are incorporated in to the liquids.

3) Add the other ingredients to the sauce pot and mix well, then bring to a simmer. Stir the pot every five to ten minutes and let the sauce simmer for about a total of thirty to thirty five minutes. Turn the stove off and allow the sauce to come to room temperature. Put the sauce in a nonreactive container and place in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use.

This is great mixed in with pulled pork, and I use a very simple method for doing that even without the use of a smoker, yes I prefer a smoker, however living in West Virginia the weather doesn’t always allow us to use one.  Buy a pork roast and set your oven to 225 degrees.  Place the pork roast in a large dutch oven that has a lid and pour in about a cup of water, a cap full of liquid smoke, and a shot of your favorite bourbon.  Place the lid on the dutch oven and then place it in the oven, close the door and let it cook for about ten hours, or until it is falling apart.  Remove it from the oven, let it set for about thirty minutes then pull it, stir in the sauce you made the night before and enjoy.

Notes: I am a huge fan of Heinz ketchup with french fries or onion rings. I think it is the best product on the market. However for use in this recipe it adds a layer of flavor that I just didn’t care for. I’m not sure why, but this recipe just seems to come out better when using an off brand, cost effective ketchup.
This sauce is always better after it is cooled and sets over night in refrigeration, the extra time for the sauce to really come together does make a difference. Enjoy!

What to make for our kids lunch, when we’re afraid of them eating at school!

It’s no secret at this point that here in the Charleston WV area that our water isn’t usable. With this post I’m not going to get in to what is safe, appropriate, or usable. I’m just going to state that my wife and myself are not using the water that is available from West Virginia American Water. We don’t feel that it is safe for our family to use, so we have chosen not to use it. All of my feelings on this matter would be best covered in a separate post.
This post will cover what we’re doing in order to make sure our twelve year old has something to eat each day when he goes to school. There are a few hurdles to cover with this, as we do not want him eating food that has been prepared by the local water, or eating off of the dishes that are being washed in the local water. He doesn’t have access to a microwave so warm food is out. And we want him to have something of substance so he isn’t setting in class hungry. These are a few of the items we have been preparing for him at home, and he seems to enjoy. There isn’t anything earth shattering, or on the cutting edge of the culinary world. However, if you would like to send food to school with your child, this is a great place to start.

Chicken Salad-
This is one of the recipes that I have used for years in several different restaurants, and it has always been received well. I believe that Chicken Salad gets a bad wrap because of the way it is prepared, so I made some adjustments to the texture of it during the preparation stages and I think it makes all the difference in the world.

Needed:
5lbs Boneless Skinless Chicken Breast
1/2 Red Onion, diced
3 Ribs Celery, split and diced
Herbs de Provence
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mayonnaise
Dijon Mustard
Canola Oil

Notice that on some of the ingredients I do not list amounts. This varies each time I make the recipe and there are a lot of factors as to how much you should use. Going through the explanation process I will explain this in detail so that you won’t run in to issues.

To begin with preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Place the Chicken Breast on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with a little non stick spray. It’s ok if the chicken breast are touching each other, but try to avoid any overlapping so that everything will cook evenly.
Season the chicken with Kosher Salt, and Black Pepper and then with the Herbs de Provence. This is a mixture of seasonings and it contains Lavender. Lavender can become very over powering if you use too much, so just sprinkle a small amount (Approximately 1/2 teaspoon) on each breast. Then drizzle some Canola (you can also use Extra Virgin Olive Oil) oil on to the breast and place them in the oven for about 28 minutes. The cook time will vary if the breast are really thick.

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While the chicken is cooking is a great time to cut the onions and celery. Once the chicken has cooked remove it from the oven and set it somewhere in the kitchen so that it can rest. There will be a lot of liquid in the baking pan so be careful while you’re moving it. Let the chicken rest for at least twenty minutes, however I recommend thirty five to forty minutes.
Once the chicken has rested you need to cut it up so that it will be the consistency that we want. I normally cut half of the chicken in to small square pieces, and the other half I cut very small to where it is basically minced. This gives the finished product some texture because there are actual pieces of meat to bite in to. Too many times I have had chicken salad that is pureed to the point that there is no texture to it at all, or the pieces are cut so large you would be better off placing them on a skewer and serving them that way. By cutting the chicken to two different textures you’re getting the best of both worlds!

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After cutting the chicken I place it in a large bowl and I add the celery and red onion. I normally do not use all that I have cut. To be honest I just add it until I feel that it is the right amount. This comes down to a personal preference, if you really like onions, add more. If you don’t care for celery, add less. There is no right or wrong.

Now it is time to add the mayonnaise and Dijon mustard. And in my opinion this is the most important step in making chicken salad. Chicken Salad is a mayonnaise based salad. However if you only use enough mayonnaise to hold the salad together you essentially can have a chicken based, chicken salad. I start with about 2 teaspoons of Dijon, and about 3/4 cup of Mayonnaise and fold everything together. You just want a slight coating on the chicken, you may need to add more and don’t hesitate because as it sets the chicken will absorb some of the liquid. I just try to avoid it becoming a bowl of mayonnaise that happens to have some chicken in it. Taste it and see if the level of Herbs de Provence are where you want them. If not then add a little more, just be careful as this seasoning can take over rather quickly and become too strong.

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Place in a air tight container and refrigerate. It will be better after it sets over night.

We made wraps out of this for our son with some lettuce and tomato. Another obvious choice would be bread and to be honest this is really good on a nice thick piece of wheat bread. It’s a good lunch, it’s filling and it isn’t bad for you like processed meat products or toxic water.

Egg Salad-

Not everyone likes Egg Salad, but at our house if I make it, it is usually gone within three hours. This is how I make it, and I hope you give it a try.

What is needed:

30 Eggs
1 Tablespoon Herbs de Provence
Kosher Salt
Black Pepper
1 Cup Mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Yellow Mustard

Egg Salad is one of the easiest salads to make, and if you do it right, it can be down right delicious. I start by placing the eggs in to a large pot that will hold all of the eggs, as well as allow them to be covered by about an inch of cold water. Place this on the stove over high heat until the water comes to a boil. As soon as you have a full boil turn the heat off, and note the time. Let the pot set as is for 18 minutes. When the 18 minutes have elapsed pour the hot water from the pot, and put cold water on top of the eggs while shaking the pot. This will crack the eggs and allow some of the cold water to get between the hard cooked egg, and the shell. This will make peeling the eggs a lot easier.

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There are several different ways to peel a hard cooked egg, some people roll them on the counter, others use a spoon, and some just pick them up and start peeling them with their fingers. However it is that you chose to do it, peel all of the eggs and place them in a large bowl. After you have peeled them all, use a mash potato utensil to “mash” the eggs. This will allow larger pieces of egg to remain, but will mash the eggs so that it has the right consistency. If you happen to have a “pan rack” at home that is used for cooling foods on a baking sheet you can also just press the eggs through one of these racks for a quick and easy method of breaking them up for the salad.

Once you have mashed all of the eggs, season them with Kosher Salt, Pepper and the Herbs de Provence. Add the mustard and mayonnaise and mix together. If you don’t feel it is enough mayonnaise then add more. I try to do the same with this as I do the chicken salad. I just want there to be enough to coat the eggs and hold them together. Once you’re finished place in an air tight container and refrigerate. As with the Chicken Salad it will be better after it sets in the refrigerator overnight.

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We made Egg Salad sandwiches for our child on a hamburger bun. You could also use an English Muffin, a wrap, or just regular bread. Also some people like to add pickles, or pickle juice to their egg salad, if this is your preference you would do so at the same time you add the mustard and mayonnaise.

So there are two things that you can make sandwiches or wraps from, but what should you serve with it? What follows are two salads that I have made that pass the kids test over and over and are also very simple to make.

Pasta Salad-

What you need:

1 16oz box Tri Color Rotini
1 Cucumber, diced
1 Tomato, diced
1 Red Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Bottle Bacon Ranch Salad Dressing
Kosher Salt

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. As you’re waiting for the water to come to a boil you can cut the vegetables up to add to the salad. Once the water has came to a boil, add some Kosher Salt to the water to season the pasta as it cooks, then add the pasta to the pot. Stir the pasta occasionally so that it doesn’t stick together and cook for as long as it says to do so on the package. Drain the hot water from the pasta and place the pasta in a large bowl that will hold all of the ingredients, and allow room for mixing. You will want to allow the pasta to cool for a few minutes before you introduce the other ingredients.

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Once the pasta has cooled, add the diced vegetables, and the bacon ranch dressing, mix well and place in an air tight container and refrigerate. After the salad has set for about an hour I give it another stir just to make sure everything is coated well.

Other things that you can add to this depending on you and your child’s taste is olives, pickles, capers and even shredded cheese.

Broccoli Salad-

This is one of my favorites to eat without question.

What is needed:

2 Heads Fresh Broccoli
12 oz Bacon (Or bacon bits)
1/2 Red Onion, diced
8oz Shredded Cheddar Cheese
Cole Slaw Dressing

Before we talk about putting the salad together lets go over a couple of the ingredients. With the price of bacon as it is right now, it could be more cost effective to simply buy bacon bits, however if you can find bacon at a good price it is probably better to cook it yourself, then crumble it after it cools. Obviously if you’re using bacon bits you don’t want to use 12 ounces you would just want to sprinkle some in when it comes time to mix everything together.
As for the Cole Slaw Dressing, I prefer to make my own however there are some really good pre-made items available out there. If you chose to make your own and you’re not sure how to go about it, I keep mine very simple by just using Mayonnaise, White Balsamic Vinegar, Kosher Salt, Black Pepper, and Sugar. I do not follow a recipe, I simply just taste as I mix until it taste the way I like Cole Slaw to taste.

So to begin the recipe cut the broccoli down to bite size pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add the Red Onion, Bacon, Shredded Cheese to the bowl, top with the cole slaw dressing and mix together. Once again I just put enough dressing on this to coat the items in the bowl, so start with a small amount of dressing and then add more as needed. Season with Kosher Salt if you like, place in an air tight container and store in the refrigerator.

I realize that none of these recipes are going to win any awards, however as we found at our house you can only fix ham or bologna sandwiches for so long before your child becomes bored with lunch. And to keep a child from eating junk you can buy from a machine, this is what we have done the past couple of weeks. I will add to this as we do new things and share what we’re doing. I hope this helps someone out!

Corn Sauce- Amaizing? Give this a try!

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Corn Sauce, I realize that it doesn’t sound that sexy.  However this is one sauce that I turn to a lot in the kitchen for several different uses.  What started as a way to bring one more level of flavor to a dish, has evolved in to something that I keep finding uses for.

Where it began- A few years back I participated in a cooking competition in which I had several weeks to determine what I wanted to prepare. It was simple, four courses with one hour to complete them all.  The menu that I had developed at the establishment I was working at had a really nice sandwich on the menu of smoked trout, and a fried green tomato.  It was served with an herb aioli and was pretty popular on our menu.  I wanted to bring this dish to the competition however I wasn’t going to serve a sandwich.  The flavor combinations were good, however I felt that it needed one more component in order to truly make it special.  So after thinking about what would compliment a fried green tomato and trout on a plate I came to the conclusion that a nice fresh ear of corn would be the perfect compliment to what we were already going to have on the plate.  I knew that I didn’t want the judges to have to pick up an ear of corn or fish after pieces of corn on the plate with their fork, so the only answer was to make a sauce that would bring that flavor and not disturb what I already was going to put on the plate.   This is what I came up with, I hope you give it a try!

 

You can use fresh corn, or frozen corn to make this sauce.  I do not recommend canned corn however.

 

What you will need:

1 One pound bag of frozen corn

1 Carrot cut in large pieces

1 Stalk of Celery cut in large pieces

1/2 Red Onion peeled

2 Cloves of Garlic whole

1/2 Pound of Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heavy Cream

 

Use a small sauce pot, or large skillet that will comfortably hold all of the ingredients and place it over medium heat.  Keep in mind through this whole process that you do not want to use high heat.  You’re just trying to extract flavors and bring them together.  Tying to speed up the process with high heat will not help you with the end product in any way.

Place the butter in the skillet that you’re going to use and when it begins to melt pour in the corn, and add the carrot, celery, onion, garlic and season everything with salt and pepper.  Give everything a good stir and just let it come to a simmer.  This may take some time, but it is worth the wait.  Once a simmer is reached, give everything a good stir again and let it simmer for 30-45 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let the skillet set and cool to room temperature.

Remove the carrot, celery, onion, and garlic and spoon the corn in to a blender.  You want all of the corn, and butter in the blender and then blend on high, add a small amount of heavy cream in order to reach the consistency that you want.  Let the blender run on high until the sauce is smooth.  Turn off the blender and taste the sauce, adjust seasoning as needed.  Depending on the application I am going to use the sauce for I will pour it in to a strainer and allow it to drain through.  Most generally I will just use it as is.

In the end you will have a very flavorful sauce that brings a really strong corn flavor to several different applications.

Uses:

Roasted Garlic and Cumin Pork Loin

Grilled Pork Chops (Pictured above)

Fried Green Tomato and Smoked Trout

As an accompaniment to a Black Bean, Red Onion Salad- just toss with the salad and you have a south west treat

Stirred in to Polenta just as it is about to be finished cooking, This makes the Polenta a star on the plate, not an afterthought.

These are all things that I have used this sauce for.  And each time it is received very well.  Corn Sauce may not sound like something earth shattering, however if your goal is to bring flavor to the plate then you should certainly give this a try.