Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Elote: Mexican Street Corn

Would you believe me if I told you there was no sweet corn in Mexico? That’s right. I said No. Sweet corn. Mexico. I know, crazy talk, right? Well, sadly it is true. Mexico is a country void of lemons and the summer corn smile characterized by sweet yellow kernels stuck between happy teeth.

As is well known, Mexico is the Land of Corn; unfortunately, the only variety grown in the vast fertile fields is extremely starchy -- perfectly suited for pan de elote, tortillas and masa, rather than right-off-the-cob indulgence, or so I thought until I discovered elote. Elote simply means corn. Interestingly, it is also the straightforward name given to the complex punchy flavors of grilled or boiled cobs served up street-side. The charred, roasty-toasty cobs are punctured with a skewer and slathered with a combination of condiments such as: salt, chili powder, butter, lime, mayonnaise, crema, cotija cheese, and epazote. Alternatively, the cobs are boiled in huge vats, the kernels cut off the cob tumbling into a plastic cup; while smacking your lips, you choose which creamy, spicy, sour, salty offerings of flavors you want to parade into your mouth.

While oogling giant hotdogs wrapped in thick fatty slices of bacon sizzling away on a greasy flat top in a square in Cuernavaca, I spotted several stands with bubbling cauldrons of corn on the cob. While I have immense respect for those lining up for the pork party, I gravitated towards the bright smile of a woman dropping shiny yellow ears into the salted boiling water. She handed me a cup of steaming corn. This being my first time, I didn’t hold back. Overwhelmed by that same urge that drives your spoon into every topping at the ice cream sundae bar, I piled it all on. My immoderation was rewarded. Crunchy kernels burst with a mild corn flavor; the creamy mayonnaise-y crema was spiked with piquant lime, subtle heat from the chili and the salty cojita cheese amped-up all of the flavors resulting in a manic scarfing of deliciousness.

Why not rev-up the last of the summer corn with a Mexican street corn rendition? You will not be sorry; this is seriously addictive stuff. Make twice what you think you will nosh and don’t be surprised if those hot dogs go uneaten.

ELOTE: Mexican Street Corn

4 ears sweet corn, grilled with a good char or cut off the cob and roasted in the oven (with a bit of olive oil and salt)
2 tablespoons cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1/2 teaspoon lime juice
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or chili powder
Kosher salt
2/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese
Lime wedges
Extra cayenne pepper or chili powder, for garnish
Fresh finely chopped epazote or cilantro for optional garnish

If going the whole cob: Crumble cheese onto a plate large enough to fit an ear of corn. In a small bowl mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice, cayenne pepper or chili powder, and salt. When the corn is cooked, brush each ear with some of the mayo sauce then roll in the cheese. Garnish with a sprinkling of chili powder and cilantro.Serve warm.

If pure kernels are your thing: After the kernels caramelize a bit, take them out of the oven and put in a bowl.  Stir in mayo, sour cream, lime juice, salt, cotijo, and chili powder and mix well. Heap onto a serving platter and garnish with a sprinkling of chili powder and cilantro. Serve warm.

1 comment:

  1. I first had Elote in NY at a Cuban restaurant. The mexi-joint near my house makes them- they are delicious, but I want to make my own- thanks for the recipe!