While I was baking up my second batch of this cheesy corn bake, I realized just how out of control my corn obsession has been as of late. My recipe lineup has recently included creamy corn grits, corn & jalapeno dip, corn & red pepper quiche, corn & heirloom tomato pizza, and a corn & roasted summer squash pasta bake (and some of these items on multiple occasions). Corn much?
Despite the corn overload, I couldn't resist baking up this delicious corn casserole the other day. When my boyfriend peeked into the kitchen to see what I was up to, I explained it in full detail. "Well, first I make a Mornay sauce. You know, like a Béchamel, but with lots of gooey cheese. So really, it's like macaroni and cheese. But with corn." I probably lost him at Mornay, but he seemed excited enough. I mean, it's corn. And cheese. His two favorite things. How could he not be stoked?
This recipe is a great jumping off point for any-from scratch casserole or vegetable bake. I love that it represents retro-style cooking, yet doesn't use any canned ingredients. You could make this sauce as a base for so many different things. Just last week I used a similar version to replace the Velveeta in my grandmother's chicken spaghetti. It also shows up in my Ham & Linguine Casserole. And who doesn't love hot, baked, gooey, homemade comfort food? You'd be crazy if you said you didn't!
Cheesy Corn Bake
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 cup freshly grated cheddar cheese
1 ounce cream cheese
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
4 cups corn, fresh or frozen*
Preheat oven to 375°.
Sauté bell pepper in a little bit of olive oil over medium to medium high heat. Set aside. In a heavy sauce pan, melt butter on medium-low to medium heat. Add flour and whisk until smooth (and the flour taste is cooked out), about three minutes. Pour in the milk and cook, constantly stirring, until very thick. Mix in cheddar and cream cheese and stir until melted and creamy. Remove from the heat and season with salt and cayenne.
Combine the cheese sauce, red pepper, and corn in a large bowl. Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired. Pour into a baking dish (I used my favorite cast iron skillet) and bake until hot and bubbly, about 35 minutes.
*If using frozen corn, steam and drain it before adding it to the recipe.
Related: Recipe: Smoky Corn & Jalapeno Dip
(Images: Nealey Dozier)