I had a lot of good advice on what to grill last week, which ended up being somewhat of a bust. In the best possible way, I suppose: we hung out with our friends, ate food and drank booze, but it had been 107° that day and what I had imagined would be the quintessential summer BBQ ended up being one person standing over a 400° grill fighting off heat stroke, while everyone else huddled inside where the air conditioner struggled to keep the temperature below 90°. Grilling was limited to corn and Anaheim chilies, while my friend Hatherly made two cold salads and bruschetta while wrangling her naked and heat-mad children.
So in short: it was actually the quintessential summer BBQ. I just didn’t grill much.
What I did make, though, was elote, or as everyone around here calls it, Mexican corn. I made it again a few nights later just because it’s fucking awesome and I think I’m going to eat it every night until all the corn in the world is gone.
I like the corn grilled in the husk because it adds so much flavor, and that’s coming from me, Earth’s least enthusiastic griller.
Most street vendors that serve Mexican corn will slather it with either crema (which is basically sour cream) or more commonly around here, with mayonnaise and then sprinkle it with crumbled cotija cheese. You’re given a shaker of chile powder and a piece of lime to squeeze over it. I prefer to mix together the mayo, chile powder and lime all together in the proportions I like; it saves time when everyone wants to get their corn ready at the same moment, and it tastes the same.
The two most common Mexican cheeses are cotija and queso fresco, and they’re interchangable for this (and much of Mexican cuisine, honestly), though slightly different in taste and texture. They both remind me of very mild feta cheese: salty, crumbly and not rapid to melt. Cotija is a little saltier and has a springy texture, while queso fresco tends to be mild and more tender.
We grilled burgers afterward, and for the thousandth time in my life I wondered why the hell vegetarian burgers are so goddamn tiny.
Mexican Grilled Corn
if you really can’t find Mexican cheese, you can use feta. if you don’t want to grill the corn or it’s the middle of winter, you can actually boil corn inside the husk – it adds a pleasant, rustic and grassy flavor to the corn that i think is great, it’s just a slight horror to peel the wet, hot husks off the corn when they’re ready to eat. but you know, beautiful food hurts.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/4 tsp ancho chile powder
1/2 tsp salt
zest from half a lime
juice from half a lime
corn, two ears per person
cotija or queso fresco, crumbled very fine
- Get everything for the corn ready before starting the grill. First, prepare the corn by tearing off one outside layer of very stiff husk as well as the hank of silk dangling off the end, and then soak the whole corn for about 15 – 30 minutes in lukewarm water.
- Next, prepare the mayo sauce. Mix everything together in a small bowl (or small jar, to keep the remainder in the fridge) and taste for levels. It will get spicier as it sits, so spice it to just below your desired heat level. Add more lime or salt as you like.
- Crumble enough cheese for the corn, as fine as you can get it with your fingers.
- Start your grill and when it reaches about 400° carefully set the corn on and with tongs turn 1/4 turn about every five minutes, or until the husk is quite blackened in parts and some of the kernels beneath have taken on some color. This should take about 20 minutes, depending on the heat of your grill.
- Remove the corn to a baking sheet and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before attempting to shuck it. Slather each ear with lots of chile-mayo and then use the mayo as glue to adhere as much cheese as you can get on it. Eat until mayo and cheese are smeared up to your eyebrows.