Sinking your teeth into the sweet, tender crunchiness of a fresh ear of corn is one of summer’s indubitable pleasures, the butter-slathered kernels yielding to your eager bite, the salt crusting your upper lip. For many of us, that first bite acts as a time machine, transporting us to the county fair or the Sunday afternoon backyard barbecue of our youth. My corny time machine takes me to Reino Aventura, a Six Flags-like amusement park in Mexico City where I had a Corn on the Cob, The Extreme Version: grilled corn generously schmeared with mayonnaise, sprinkled with grated cheese and chile piquín, and finished off with a squirt of lime.
But, regardless of whether it’s consumed in English or en español, nibblers will agree that eating corn on the cob has some unattractive side effects; bits and pieces of kernel stubbornly fix themselves in our gums, between our canines, incisors, and molars, making our faces contort and twitch as we not-so-discreetly attempt to dislodge them with the tips of our tongues. Even in the comfort and privacy of my own home, I can’t stand the struggle.
So, the other day when I was craving Mexican street corn, I decided I’d deconstruct the local treat and serve it forth in a bowl. It would be a much more Emily Post-ish eating experience, besides which I would be able to get larger mouthfuls (not so Emily Post, in the end).
Though versions abound, this is my recipe for Mexican Corn Off the Cob. Serve it as a side dish to grilled steak, fajitas, or as a topping for quesadillas.
MEXICAN CORN OFF THE COB
Serves 2 to 3
6 ears of corn, husks and silk removed (yields approx. 3 cups of kernels)
2 tsps. corn oil
2 to 3 TBSP. mayonnaise
Juice of one lime
chile piquín or chile de árbol flakes, to taste
1/3 C. grated cotija cheese
-With a small, sharp paring knife, scrape the kernels off the cob. Work in a large shallow bowl so you can catch the kernels as well as any milk that may leak out.
-Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add kernels and toss to coat in oil. Either stir or shake kernels constantly until they are nicely toasted – I prefer mine a bit charred.
-Pour corn into a serving bowl and season with salt and pepper. Stir in mayonnaise, then sprinkle with chile and cheese. Drizzle with lemon juice and serve.