May 12, 2013

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn

Usually, on the side of the street in Mexico City, there is a man or a woman grilling ears of corn over hot coals. The elote's sweet, roasty aroma wafts across plazas, tempting you to buy one even when you aren't quite hungry. Should you indulge in this cheap and tasty treat, the proprietor will offer to slather your corn with crema or mayo, roll it in salty crumbled cotija cheese, dust it with spicy chile powder, and drizzle it with lime--or whatever particular combination appeals to you.

Indulge in this treat. Trust me.

Not just once, but almost every time you have the chance. This type of corn is a Mexico City tradition, and you just are not living life to the fullest if you pass it up. This is a little difficult, because there are so many delectable food traditions like this in Mexico City--if you aren't careful you will end up neglecting the myriad other joys of one of the best cities on Earth.

If you are not going to be in Mexico City any time soon (it has sadly been 12 years since I lived there and at least 10 since my last visit), this recipe will help tide you over. Now, this is not exactly a traditional Mexican recipe--it came from Cook's Illustrated. It adds a lovely garlicky dimension,  uses Pecorino Romano and cilantro. Yet somehow it captures the essence of Mexican grilled corn while becoming something completely new and undeniably delicious.

Like a fading memory or a feeling of nostalgia, this recipe manages to make the street food of Mexico City taste better than ever.

Mexican-Style Grilled Corn
  • 1/4 cup regular or light mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons sour cream or Greek yogurt (regular or non-fat)
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed
  • 3/4 teaspoon chili powder, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons lime juice (from 1 lime)
  • 1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 teaspoons vegetable oil, plus more for grill
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
  • 6 large ears of corn, husks and silk removed
  1. Start your grill and heat until hot. Scrape grill clean. Dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil. Holding wad with tongs, oil the grate.
  2. While grill is heating, combine mayonnaise, sour cream or yogurt, cilantro, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, lime juice, and cheese in a bowl. Set aside. 
  3. In another bowl, mix vegetable oil, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Add corn and toss until evenly coated OR brush oil mixture evenly onto corn.
  4. Grill corn over coals, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides--7 to 12 minutes. Removed from grill and place in a bowl with mayonnaise mixture, tossing to coat evenly. Alternatively, spread mayonnaise mixture on individual ears with a knife. Serve immediately.

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