Elotes Meet Risotto al Salto in an All-Star Mashup

Risotto met elotes—the Mexican snack of corn on the cob with Cotija, chile, and lime—and this beautiful baby was born.

Corn risotto pancake

Riselotes al Salto (Elote-Flavored Risotto Pancake)

Video shoots are the best part of my job—I’m not alone with a computer or locked in a kitchen with nothing but a 10-pound bag of basmati rice; I get to be part of a team. A tiny team, but a winning one nonetheless.

Shoot days are long, anxiety-ridden, and prone to complications, bringing us together like only a natural disaster or being trapped in a well might. One day a camera might act up, repeatedly turning off mid-shot. Sometimes the ribeyes arrive looking like they were butchered with a butter knife, meaning we’re stuck improvising a new video on the fly. And, oh, there’s nothing more fun than handling the mood swings and predilection for alcohol of the on-camera talent (a.k.a.—me).

Leftover corn risotto pancake with elotes topping of cilantro, spicy mayo, and Cotija cheese on a plate.

This inevitably leaves us starving and tired. For people around so much food, we rarely find time to sit down and actually eat it. Instead, we only grow hungrier watching the pornographic playback on the monitors: ice cream perfectly curling into a scoop, wisps of steam crawling out of freshly baked pie, the oh-so-sought-after close-up of melted cheese stretching.

While shooting the video for corn risotto recently, our visual director, Vicky, and I stood close to the pressure cooker, breathing in the sweet corn steam while our stomachs rumbled. She had elotes on her mind, and specifically Kenji’s recipe for the Mexican grilled street corn that’s smothered in mayo, then showered with cheese, chile, and lime. It’s a perfect example of food math at its best—somehow the whole becomes much greater than the sum of its parts.

Vicky was dreaming about creating her own culinary formula, exponentially increasing the deliciousness factor of my corn risotto by adding an elote multiplier. It seemed like sound science to me: Swap out the pecorino for Cotija, stir in some mayo, finish it with chile and cilantro.

Collage of cooking corn risotto in a skillet to make a pancake.

Hunger drives you to do crazy things, so, before elote-fying the corn risotto per her request, I followed in Daniel’s footsteps, frying the corn risotto in heaps of butter to form a crispy cake, as he does in his risotto al salto recipe. Because before you add mayo to something, it should always be fried in butter.

So now, I’m here to introduce to you perhaps the greatest thing to ever come out of the Serious Eats kitchen: riselotes. All the years of experience between Daniel, Kenji, Vicky, and me have finally led to this masterpiece, born from the adversity of our collective shoot-day hunger, an ideal example of teamwork and collaboration.

Leftover corn risotto pancake with elotes topping of cilantro, spicy mayo, and cotija cheese on a plate.

Frying the risotto into a crispy cake is trickier than it looks. For an in-depth look at how to nail it every time, check out Daniel’s post here. But here are the highlights:

  • Always use cold, leftover risotto; the just-cooked stuff is too creamy to pack into a cake.
  • Stick with a sloped pan rather than a straight-sided one, for easier flipping.
  • Don’t skimp on the butter.
  • Be sure to swirl the cake in the pan frequently for even browning.
  • Use a buttered plate to help you flip the cake to brown both sides.

I topped my cake with crumbled Cotija cheese, chile powder, a squirt of fresh lime, cilantro, and chipotle mayo (put it in a piping bag if you want it to look extra soigné). It was just what we needed to fill up and relax after a long day of trying not to drop cameras.