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Esquites (Mexican Corn on the Cob in a Cup)

It's elote for people who don't like to eat with their hands!

Who doesn’t love elote, that roasted Mexican corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, chili powder, and cheese, spritzed with lime juice, and served on a stick? I’ve come to associate it with summertime, when sweet corn is in season and I have my pick of local food trucks to sit in front of, snacking away.

As much as I love it, I have to admit that the fastidious Virgo in me doesn’t always love how sloppy elote is to eat. I get annoyed with how the grated cheese smears all over my chin, how the corn inevitably sticks in my teeth, and how glops of mayo always end up on my dry clean-only shirts. It’s the kind of annoyance that makes me hang my head in foodie shame as I go back to the truck to ask politely for a steak knife to cut off the kernels so that I can eat them with spoon.

That is why I really love esquites, which are essentially elote in a cup (or, as I prefer, a large bowl or a trough). Here, the messy work is done ahead of time and all you have to do is eat it, calmly and neatly.

Both elote and esquites are essentially street food and like most street food, there isn’t really an official recipe per se. The general consensus seems to be that there must be corn, it can be boiled but it is better roasted, there should be some kind of fat like soft butter, crema Mexicana,  or — even better — mayonnaise (I like my street food a little on the trashy side so it’s mayo for me). There should be some heat, some lime juice, and some salty, crumbly cheese like Cotija, but grated Parmesan or aged feta does the trick too.

Unlike eloteesquites often includes some chopped epazote, a traditional Mexican herb whose flavor is hard to describe. If pressed, I would say it kind of tastes like what would happen if cilantro and tarragon romped in a dusty field and had a herb baby. Epazote is worth seeking out; a little is all you need to add a wonderful earthy dimension to the corn. If you can’t find it, chopped cilantro is a good substitute.

Ingredients:

2 ears of corn

1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped

Olive oil

Butter

Salt

1 tablespoon of mayonnaise, crema Mexicana, or sour cream

The juice of half a lime

Cayenne pepper to taste

1 tablespoon of epazote, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of grates Cotija, Parmesan, or crumbled feta

Tajín Clásico Mexican chili seasoning (or you can experiment with a combination of Ancho chili powder, more lime juice, and salt)

How to prepare:

1. Remove the corn kernels from the cob. To do this with minimal mess, stand each ear of corn in a large shallow dish and slice down the length of each ear with a sharp knife. Keep the knife as close to the cob as possible. Rotate the ear and continue to slice down each exposed side until all the kernels are removed.

2. Sauté the kernels and the chopped serrano chili in a large skillet or cast iron pan with about 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

3. Once the kernels have started to brown, transfer them to a bowl and add the mayonnaise, lime juice, and enough cayenne pepper to suit your taste. Stir in the epazote and the grated cheese. Adjust the seasoning, dust with Tajín, and serve.

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18 Comments

    • Exactly! Sweet corn and tomatoes, it’s good to take advantage as much as we can before it’s all root vegetables and gourds! Thank you for the kind comment and for dropping by!

    • Thank you! I couldn’t think of another way to describe the taste 🙂

      Is epazote hard to grow? It’s sad to hear that the plant didn’t take. We’ll add it to our growing list of things to eat in NYC 🙂

        • That sounds like something that would happen to me. Like yesterday, I was at a bbq and asked my friend for a beer bottle opener. He just rolled his eyes and told me it was a twist-off cap. He’s a bartender and I felt really dumb.

    • I know! I feel kind of bad that I sometimes avoid things like tall, loaded burgers or anything still in its shell because it’s too difficult or messy to eat. Glad to know that I am not the only one 🙂

  1. I’ll take a bowl of this please, but hold the chili pepper and anything spicy and put that in YOUR bowl. I never got into “tall food” that was de rigueur a few years back. Love ya, my darling!

  2. This is brilliant. Take the corn off the cob!!! So much easier to eat, and much better for the teeth! I’m with you – a trough…

    • Muchas gracias, Chef Mimi! Taking it off the cob is so much easier! So easy that maybe more than one trough would be even better 🙂 Thank you again for the kind comment and for dropping by!

  3. I like that you call it “corn on the cob in a bowl” – ha. My three year old calls corn that is cut off the cob, “Corn on the cob not on the cob.” Same idea I guess 🙂 Also – “what would happen if cilantro and tarragon romped in a dusty field and had a herb baby.” Ha! Yes.

    • I love it! “Corn on the cob not on the cob!” That is exactly what I will call elote from now on.

      Epazote is a strange one, isn’t it? But so good in a vat of black beans!

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