Irresistible grilled corn—called elote—is sold by street vendors throughout Mexico. It’s a warm, creamy, sweet and spicy, utterly delicious treat with just enough bite to make your mouth water.
Grilled Mexican Corn
2 ears corn
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
1 teaspoon cilantro leaves, freshly chopped, optional
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
Red chili powder, to taste
2 limes cut into wedges, for garnish
- Preheat your grill.
- Remove husks from the corn; but, if desired, leave the core attached at the end so you have something to hold onto.
- Grill the corn on a hot grill or cast iron griddle pan until slightly charred. Turn it so it gets cooked evenly all over.
- Mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, and cilantro together.
- Grate the Parmesan in another bowl.
- While the corn is still warm, slather with mayonnaise mixture.
- Squeeze a bit of lime juice over the corn and shower with Parmesan.
- Season with chili powder; serve with extra lime wedges on the side.
This recipe can be easily up-scaled from two to four to six people and so on by adding an ear per person and the proportionate ingredients. Just do the math.
Ideally, your corn should have a bit of a smoky/charred flavor and look, without being overpoweringly black. I boil my corn first, in sugared water, so the kernels are plump and sweet; then grill only long enough to char the ears. If you can’t grill, that’s OK. You can use your broiler instead . . . or simply boil the ears and dress them up Mexican-style—they’ll still taste great!
If you choose to grill only, soak the corn for about 10 minutes in cold water first.
I first had grilled Mexican corn at an open-air market in Oaxaca. Indian women were roasting the corn on open grills. When the corn was ready, it was smothered in creme, rolled in a crumbly cheese, and sprinkled with lime juice and chili pepper. It’s customary to eat elote on a stick, or by grasping the husk of the cob which is pulled down to form a “handle.” Mexican street vendors also sell esquites, which is corn off the cob—similar to elote, but served in a cup. Deliciosos!
For authentic elote, use Crema Mexicana instead of the mayonnaise and sour cream. It’s a rich, slightly thickened, delicate sour cream sauce used extensively in Mexican cooking. I can’t find it at my local supermarket, so I use a combination of mayonnaise and low-fat sour cream instead.
Also for authentic, use cotija añejo cheese, if you can find it, instead of the Parmesan. Coteija añejo, also called queso añejo or queso añejado, is an aged, mild-flavored Mexican cheese. It tastes similar to Parmesan, but has a thicker, crumbly texture. Queso fresco, another mild Mexican cheese, can also be used instead of Parmesan. Find these cheeses near other specialty cheeses at your local supermarket or in Mexican grocery stores.
Add more or less cilantro, as desired.
If you are using Parmesan, be sure it’s freshly grated and not that grainy stuff out of the plastic canister. You can substitute fresh grated with shredded Parmesan. If you insist on using the grainy canister stuff, your elote will lose something in the translation.
You can use lemon instead of lime . . . and cayenne pepper instead of chili powder.