This is not a recipe for corn purists.
If you’re the kind of person who shudders at the notion of adding anything beyond a slick of butter to your boiled ears, you should probably stop reading right now. Because this is the polar opposite of a minimal, simple preparation that really lets the flavor of the corn shine.
This corn recipe is all about gilding the lily, but in the very best possible way.
It’s a riff on elote, a popular street food in Mexico. Depending upon the region, whole ears of shucked corn are either grilled or boiled, then slathered with some combination of chili, salt, lime, butter, mayonnaise and crumbled or grated cheese.
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Then you devour the creamy, spicy, tangy ear on a stick while walking along the street, with a stack of napkins on hand for when you’re done. There’s no neat way to eat elote, and that’s part of its appeal.
At home, you can forgo the sticks and serve the corn on plates, but don’t expect it to be any less messy. Refined hosts can serve it with finger bowls; a nearby garden hose also works if you’re dining alfresco. Or, you could slice the kernels off the cob before mixing it with its garnishes, turning it into esquites, which is a lot more fork friendly, though arguably a little less fun.
In this recipe, I opt for grilling the corn rather than boiling, which gives it a smoky richness and increases the crunch. If you prefer a gentle smoky flavor, take the ears off the grill when they’re only slightly golden. For something more pronounced, grill them until they’re nearly black.
You have options when it comes to the garnishes. I like to mix all the ingredients together into a chunky sauce, then spread it over the grilled corn before serving.
But you could also make it more interactive, and let your guests garnish as they like. (This is definitely the way to go if you’re serving this to people with dietary restrictions.) Just put all the ingredients – the mayonnaise, lime wedges, chili, cheese and cilantro – into separate bowls, and let people dress their cobs as they see fit.
And if you happen to have any purists in your group, you could also set out a little dish of butter. When it comes to fresh summer corn, it is possible to make everyone happy.
Grilled corn with cheese, lime and chili (elotes)
6 ears fresh corn, shucked
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder, more as needed
Fine sea salt, as needed
Black pepper, as needed
1/2 cup crumbed cotija cheese (or substitute feta or ricotta salata)
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1. Heat your grill to medium-high. Grill corn, turning occasionally, until cooked through and lightly charred, 7 to 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, zest of 1 lime, chili powder, salt and pepper.
3. Slather hot corn with mayonnaise mixture and sprinkle with cheese and cilantro. Cut limes into wedges and serve alongside corn.
Yield: 6 servings