It’s high sweet corn season, and time to feast on this end of summer bounty. Once you’ve eaten it boiled and buttered to your heart’s content, you absolutely must try it Mexican-style. Elote (Mexican street corn) has become a summertime staple in the melting pot of American cuisines. How can you go wrong, with sweet corn, mayonnaise, salty cotija cheese and a sprinkle of chili powder?
The classic way to eat elotes is standing outside, holding the cob by the pulled-back husk, unconcerned about where stray corn kernels and mayo might end up. To take the elote flavors indoors, I’ve put a whole Mexican meal on a platter, with a cob-free version of elotes on top.
Of course, you can always make your own elote served on the cob. No real recipe is needed. Simply grill or boil corn on the cob, spread mayonnaise on the hot corn and sprinkle with finely ground cotija cheese and chili powder. If you want to stir some lime juice and zest into the mayo, that is a delicious addition.
Some versions of elote use Mexican crema, a mild and sweet version of sour cream, instead of mayo. Others mix softened butter into the mayonnaise. Cotija cheese is a firm, salty white cheese that does not melt. It’s easiest to cube it and grind it to small bits in the food processor. If you can’t get cotija, very firm Greek feta, halloumi or, in a pinch, Parmesan can be used.
Elote is a beloved street food, served as a late night snack from food carts throughout Mexico. In Minnesota, you’ll see food trucks and carts selling it in the parking lots of Mexican grocery stores or at street fairs and festivals. I must confess, I’ll make a U-turn to get to an elote cart. It’s a true summer dining experience, and not to be missed.
For this indoor experience, I made yellow rice and tossed in some black beans so you can make a meal of it. I went to a Mexican grocery and picked up some annatto paste for authentic color and flavor, but you can use turmeric, too. Annatto is a dark orange colored seed, often used as a natural food color.
Then I simply cut the corn from the cob and mixed in the toppings, then spread it over the rice. It couldn’t be more simple.
Robin Asbell is a cooking instructor and author of “Big Vegan,” “The Whole Grain Promise” and “Great Bowls of Food.” Find her at robinasbell.com.