How To Make Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
This is the best way to serve corn, period.
I know that's a bold statement, but it's one I've backed up with years of detailed scientific studies into the eating habits of my wife and the occasional friend or neighbor. I've calculated to several decimal places exactly how much faster the average ear of corn cooked in this manner disappears from the table and down the gullet of an unsuspecting dinner guest than an ear of corn cooked through other means, cross-referencing and controlling for seasonality, the °Bx of the corn, and the starting appetite of the diner. I've conducted blind, double-blind, and even triple blind* taste tests and ran the results through sophisticated analysis algorithms I had specially programmed.
*That's when even the corn doesn't know it's being eaten.
As luck would have it, I've since lost all of this data in an unfortunate diving accident (note: never attempt to free dive without rubber pants your size), but believe me when I tell you that I have rigorously proven this corn to be more delicious than any other.
Don't believe me? Just try out this recipe risk-free. If you are in anyway unsatisfied, I offer a 100 percent, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.*
*Cost of time, ingredients, internet connection fees, paper, printer ink, gas, coal, cooking equipment, beers, or any other costs with actual monetary value not included.
The basic premise is to start out with really great grilled corn, already unarguably* one of the most delicious things on the face of the planet. There are many ways to grill corn, but in this case, you want to go with fully shucked cobs, cooked directly over very hot coals. If all goes well, the corn should be completely cooked through just as it begins to char, rendering each kernel bursting with sweet juice with a rich, nutty flavor from the toasting.
*To the wiseguy trying to argue with the unarguable right now: you're fooling no one.
Next up, you'll want to combine a few more delicious things together. Cotija cheese, crumbled finely (if you can't find it, a good crumbly feta will do well), Mexican cream (or sour cream), mayonnaise, garlic, cilantro, and powdered chili.
There are those strange folks out there who can't seem to stomach mayonnaise or mayonnaise-slathered food. To those, I would first suggest attempting to try to start thinking about finding more joy in your life, then immediately follow it up by filling their mouths with deliciously saucy grilled corn before they can begin to argue otherwise.
The most delicious thing about all those delicious ingredients is that they become even more delicious when you combine them all together into a creamy sauce.
Want to know how to take what's already more delicious and turn it into something that's more than more delicious? Slather more delicious item A over more delicious item B to create more more delicious item C.
A + B = C, but magically, C > A + B. That's the magic of synergy in foods, and it comes out in spades in this recipe. The final result is sweet, salty, savory, creamy, nutty, and—with the help of a squeeze of lime—tart. To my mind, it's the very best way to get a taste of summer. Gloriously drippy, fat-smothered summer.
When I make corn like this, I plan on at least an ear and a half per person, though realistically, it's better to go with two, it's that darn delicious.
And if you're in the mood for something a bit more demure, you can always go the fork-and-plate route by making esquites, a close cousin to this dish, and equally delicious.*
*How can the most delicious way to eat corn be just as delicious as a different way to eat corn? Because they're both the most delicious way. Just go with it.
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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.