Sweet Summer Corn with Bacon and Balsamic Onions

Becoming a good cook is a little bit like becoming a good musician: at a certain point, you can glance at a recipe–the way a pianist might glance at a piece of sheet music–and know what it’s going to taste like, just like the pianist knows what it’s going to sound like. That’s a real skill to have, especially when planning a dinner and searching through cookbooks for something to dazzle. On the morning our story begins, I was flipping through a Food52 Cookbook that I was sent long ago, and this recipe–which is also live on the Food52 site–sang out to me like a Mozart concerto. Turns out, not only did it taste as good as it did in my head; it tasted even better.

It’s a recipe that has its own logic: you start by rendering bacon.


When the bacon is crisp, you remove it and pour out some of the fat. Then you add onions and cook them ’til they’re translucent; at which point you deglaze with balsamic vinegar:


Then you cook them down with some sugar and salt for about 30 minutes. The idea is that you’re creating a sour component that’ll complement the sweet summer corn and the meaty/salty bacon.

While that’s happening, you see about the corn. I took a departure here from the recipe because I didn’t want to dirty as many pots/bowls. The recipe has you boil whole ears of corn and then cut them off the cob. Instead, I cut the corn off the cobs raw using the technique where you put an upside-down bowl inside a bowl to catch all the kernels as they go aflying (this worked quite well):


Then I took my largest non-stick skillet, added a glug of olive oil, heated it, and then added all of the corn with a big pinch of salt, stirring a bit until the corn was just cooked.


To finish, you dump the cooked corn into a big bowl and add the bacon and the balsamic onions.


Then lots of chopped cilantro:


Stir that in and there you are, a killer summer side dish that I served with my famous spicy spatchcocked chicken.


It’s a side dish so good, you can’t possibly make too much. I ate more than two helpings and nearly fought over the rest. Again: it has the sweetness of summer corn, the salty/meatiness of bacon, and the zippy tang of balsamic-infused onions. Why are you not rushing to the store to make this right now? If there’s a run on corn at your local grocery store, now you’ll know why.

Recipe: Sweet Summer Corn with Bacon and Balsamic Onions

Summary: Based on a recipe from Food52.com.


  • 6 slices of bacon or pancetta, cut into lardons
  • A splash of neutral oil (like Canola, Vegetable, Grapeseed)
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 6 ears of fresh corn
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro


  1. Start by rendering the bacon in a large skillet with that splash of neutral oil–which helps the bacon start going–until most of the fat has come out and the bacon is crisp. Lift the bacon to a paper-towel lined plate and pour out some of the bacon fat, leaving about 2 tablespoons.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the red onion. Saute with a pinch of salt for a minute, then add the balsamic vinegar, sugar, a pinch of salt and some pepper. Bring to a boil, scrape up the brown bits on the bottom of the pan, then lower to a simmer and cook for 20 to 25 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  3. While that’s happening, husk the fresh corn and cut the kernels from the cob by placing a small bowl upside-down inside a large bowl, placing a cob on top, and cutting straight down with a sharp knife. (Save those cobs; you can use them to make corn soup some other time.)
  4. Heat a large non-stick skillet with the remaining 2 tablespoon of olive oil; then add all of the corn kernels and a big pinch of salt, tossing and stirring until the kernels are just cooked through, about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour the cooked corn into a large bowl.
  5. To finish, stir the corn together with the reserved bacon, the balsamic onions, and the finely chopped cilantro. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 30 minute(s)

Number of servings (yield): 6

My rating 5 stars:  ★★★★★ 1 review(s)

7 thoughts on “Sweet Summer Corn with Bacon and Balsamic Onions”

  1. Sounds wonderful! I like the sour component…different from most of the corn sautes we’re seeing everywhere right now.

    (Instead of two bowls, I use my bundt pan for holding the corn while cutting…the little hole really helps keep it stable. I put it in the sink too, on a towel to prevent slipping, to contain even more mess.)

  2. I love the upside down bowl inside a bowl tip – I am forever finding random pieces of corn around my bench days later – cheers!

    1. Buzzed Lightyeared

      Yup..loving that tip..I have always have to clean up all the kernels that fell down after cutting the corn.

  3. I made this for dinner tonight, with a few modifications (I skipped the cilantro – unfortunately, I’m with Julia on it). So yummy! A bit rich alongside my Syracuse Salt Potatoes; I’ll have to remember to pair it with something light next time.

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