Thu Aug 18, 2011
Here it is, a post 4 years in the making! Well, not really, but I first put together a recipe for the most excellent Mexican-style grilled corn back in 2008, but didn't quite have the photos I wanted to use for a post, so it sat patiently in my queue. It wasn't until a few weeks ago that I finally took some glamour shots I was happy enough with to finally bring this corn to the blog, but that wait was not in vein, as I've been slowly altering my recipe to make it simpler, yet better. So at long last, I'm finally getting to share my all-time favorite preparation of grilled corn, and I'm confident this is about as good as it gets.
It wasn't just the recipe I tweaked, but the process as well. As I've mentioned previously, when first doing corn on the grill I would peel back the husk, remove the silk, tie the husk back in place, then soak the corn in water to prevent the husk from burning. While this did make for a pretty presentation, it was also a huge pain the ass.
Now I've taken to removing the husk and silk altogether, which can be done quickly, then rubbing the ears lightly with butter, giving them a light seasoning, and wrapping them in foil. I've found buttering and seasoning prior to cooking produces the most flavorful corn, beating out the slippery ears that are creating when applying butter post cook.
On the grill, I've also found foil gives the right amount of protection for the kernels from the fire. I prefer to cook the corn over a hot fire, which gives some nice browning to corn, and without the foil they can burn and shrivel a bit too much—not great eats. What I'm looking for is light char, which gives that grilled flavor, while retaining a fully sweet and juicy kernel, and foiling seems to produce that crucial balance.
After coming off the grill and the corn rests until it's cool enough to handle, I'm usually rewarded with beautiful ears such as these. Now when I first did this recipe back in 2008, my corn did not look so good, and this photo just makes me think that wait was worth it.
So time and practice resulted in perfectly cooked corn, but it also brought major changes in the finishings that define the Mexican-style corn. In my earlier pursuits, I was creating a slather that was heavy on the ingredients—including mayo, sour cream, cayenne, cilantro, and lime—and while it was good, the end result seemed overly complicated from the corn I was used to getting from street vendors and restaurants. Since then I've scaled back a lot and use only a mixture of mayo and cayenne to coat the corn after it's been grilled.
Once that creamy, spicy slather is on, the corn has the right base to hold the cheese. The cheese has to be grated cotjia—a salty cow's milk cheese—and this is one thing I've never changed. I've seen other recipes use substitutes, but I'd personally spend the time seeking out cotija over picking anything else.
Grilled, slathered, and rolled, all that's left is a squirt of lime juice and these are ready to be devoured. Having an incredible combination of flavors and textures, I think this is the corn of the gods. Each kernel bursts sweet juices that balances the spiciness of the cayenne mayo, while the cheese gives a salty, textured bite, and the lime add an acidic freshness to the whole thing.
So was it worth the wait of 4 years to finally write up this recipe properly? With each year just bringing more of this most delicious corn, the resounding answer is YES!
Mexican-Style Grilled Corn
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
4 ears of corn, husked
1 tablespoon butter
Cotija cheese, grated
1 lime, quatered
Freshly ground black pepper
1. Mix together mayonnaise and cayenne pepper in a small bowl, set aside.
2. Lightly butter the corn and season with salt and pepper to taste. Wrap ears individually in aluminum foil.
3. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and spread the coals evenly over the charcoal grate. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place the foiled corn on the grill and cook until tender and slightly charred, about 20 minutes, turning 4 times during cooking. Remove from the grill and let cool for 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Unwrap corn and spread liberally with cayenne mayonnaise and then roll in cotija cheese to fully coat ear. Serve with lime wedges.