Mexican Street Corn Salad
By Heidi Allison
This summer salad showcases the flavors of that seriously addictive dish, Mexican Street Corn (aka Elote). Street venders in Mexico, New Mexico, Los Angeles and Tex-as grill (or, steam) peak-of-the-season sweet summer corn on their carts till a light char appears, slather the smoky, sweet corn with mayo, which acts as a binder, then roll it in crumbled, salty cotija cheese, add a squeeze of fresh lime juice and finish the dish with a light sprinkle of minced fresh cilantro and chili powder. This wonderfully messy “grab-and go” is the perfect balance of sweet, smoky, salty and citrus… with heat.
My rendition takes this dish off the street, and, puts it on a plate…. a bit easier to eat. I prefer to poach the corn in hot water, rather that grilling it, a technique which can toughen its protein and dry the corn out. The trick is to bring the pot of water to a boil, add the corn, then immediately cover the pot, and turn off the heat, letting the corn sit in the hot water bath for 15 minutes. This goofproof method ensures the corn’s temper-ature rises to 150-165 degrees —the point where starches have gelatinized but pectin remains intact, leaving kernels soft with a bit of snap— not mushy. The “smoky hit” comes from the roasted Hatch Chiles and smoked paprika or chili powder. This dish is great hot or cold, and pairs well with grilled meats and tacos.
6 ears fresh corn, shucked and silk removed
2 mild Hatch Chiles, roasted, peeled and seeds removed; cut into 1/4-inch strips
1-2 jalapeños, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch strips
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/3 cup mayonnaise
juice of 2 limes
zest of 1 lime
1/3 cup crumbled cotija cheese
1/4 cup minced cilantro
kosher flake salt, to taste
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1/4 tsp. ground New Mexico Chili Powder or chipotle chili powder
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn, cover with a lid, and immediately turn off the heat. Let sit for 15 minutes. Remove corn, set on cutting board and carefully run a knife downwards on the cob to remove kernels. Place corn in a bowl and set aside.
Place mayo, lime juice, lime zest, chilies over hot corn, then microplane garlic over mayo and toss till combined. Sprinkle cheese on top and toss to combine. Taste to see if additional salt is needed.
Plate and top with cilantro, smoked paprika and New Mexican or chipotle chili powder and serve.