How to Make Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)

[Photographs: J. Kenji López-Alt. Video: Vicky Wasik.]

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 on 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 run 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 any way unsatisfied, I offer a 100%, no-questions-asked, money-back guarantee.**

** Cost of time, ingredients, internet connection fees, paper, printer ink, gas, coal, cooking equipment, beers, or any other items of actual monetary value not included.

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The basic premise is to start out with really great grilled corn, already inarguably*** 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 wise guy trying to argue with the inarguable right now: You're fooling no one.

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Next up, you'll want to combine a few more delicious things. Cotija cheese, crumbled finely (if you can't find it, a good, crumbly feta will do well); Mexican crema (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 that you attempt to start thinking about finding more joy in your life, then immediately follow it up by filling your mouths with deliciously saucy grilled corn before you 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 in 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.

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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 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.

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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.