The origins of this recipe are fodder for a good debate, best over a plate of this corn-and-cheese sauce on crusty toasted bread. Theory #1: In a 1966 issue of Yankee, reader Mildred B. Larrabee shared this recipe, along with the story of an ill-fated ship from Amsterdam that foundered in a storm off the coast of Maine, in December 1710. On board: hundreds of wheels of wax-coated cheese, many of which floated safely to shore on Peaks Island (the crew were not so lucky). "The women [on the island] were hard-taxed to find ways in which to utilize it in such ingenious recipes as to avoid the exclamation: 'Oh, not cheese again!'" Larrabee's kin had deep roots on Peaks Island, and she theorized that this old family recipe might have come from that period. Theory #2: Another "woodchuck" dish, on record from the 1930s, uses canned tomatoes or tomato soup in a flour-thickened sauce with melted cheese. Both are essentially variations on Welsh rarebit. So is this a pre-Revolutionary treat or a 20th-century invention? It's delicious either way.
2 tablespoons salted butter
1 small onion, minced
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 pound grated cheese, such as aged Gouda or cheddar
2 egg yolks, beaten
2 cups fresh corn, scraped from about 3 cobs
2 teaspoons minced fresh parsley or savory
6 slices toasted sourdough or other crusty bread
Garnish: more minced parsley, savory, or other herb
Melt butter in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add onion and salt and cook until translucent, about 6 minutes. Add milk and stir until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to the lowest setting and sprinkle in cheese, stirring continuously. When fully melted, spoon 1/4 cup of the mixture into a small bowl with the egg yolks, whisking as you do. Whisk in an additional 1/4 cup of the mixture, then pour back into the pot. Stir until thickened. Add corn and parsley. Serve hot over toast and garnished with fresh herbs.