Mexican street corn salad - a spiced up side dish for grilling season
Jessica Webster | AnnArbor.com
Now, when people ask me what plans we have for summer, I get to say: “We’re heading up north.” I usually get a smile and a nod, as if to say: “Ah, then you’re one of us.”
(If this is not what the smile and nod is meant to convey, please do not burst my bubble.)
Dinners at the cottage are usually pretty simple. We’ve got a halfway decent grill, so we eat a lot of hamburgers, hot dogs and steaks. It’s the side dishes that challenge our creativity.
I’m always on the lookout for good side dishes that come together quickly and don’t require a plethora of exotic ingredients. That last qualifier is especially important at the cottage, as the nearby grocery stores have very limited produce sections.
The good news is that we can get farm-fresh corn and in-season berries at the roadside stands in the area. So as long as we give the week’s menu a bit of forethought when we’re packing to head north, we can eat pretty well.
The corn is the focus of today’s meal. It pairs up perfectly with just about everything, but tonight’s main dish is beef tenderloin. Since we’re keeping it simple with the beef, I decided to spice up the corn a little.
Mexican street corn, called elote, is ridiculously delicious and flavorful. Roasted or grilled corn slathered with a queso and crema (or mayonnaise) mixture, and sprinkled with chili powder and cilantro.
It’s one of my favorite things to order on the Frita Batidos menu when Eve is cooking it up, but it’s sometimes messier than I want to deal with.
The solution: Mexican street corn salad. All of the flavor in elote, but with much less mess.
A note on corn kernel removal: There are special tools available that make the job a little less messy (I got mine at Williams Sonoma), but it’s pretty simple to do (carefully) with a knife.
Mexico Street Corn Salad - adapted from SeriousEats.com
- 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 ounces queso fresco, cotija or feta cheese, finely crumbled
- 1/2 cup finely sliced scallion greens
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
- 1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced on a microplane grater (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lime
- Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste
1. Preheat the grill to medium-hot. Carefully peel the cornhusks back without removing them, revealing the corn silk. Remove all the corn silk, and then pull the husks back up. You can tie the husks together with some cooking twine, but that seems like a fairly unnecessary step.
Place the corn on the grill, turning every few minutes so the husks are charred on all sides - cooking for a total of about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let the corn cool before you remove the husk and cut off the kernels. Transfer the kernels to a large bowl.
If you don’t have a grill or prefer to cook inside, here’s an alternate way to prepare the corn:
Shuck the corn and remove kernels. Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels, season to taste with salt, toss once or twice, and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, about 2 minutes longer. Continue tossing and charring until well charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl.
2. Add mayonnaise, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, and chili powder and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more chili powder to taste. Serve immediately.