Rajas Con Crema
This decadent “north-of-the-border” rendition of Mexican rajas con crema is San Diego bar food at its best! Somewhere between rajas de poblano con crema, queso fundido and esquites, this dish is served at “taquizas” (aka taco parties) as a main, or, as a hearty dip at gastro pubs in the trendy Gaslight district. It’s addictive, and pairs exceptionally well with margs, mezcal shooters and pool parties.
This dish is popular in central and southern Mexico and is made with fresh summer corn, cream, cheese, white onion, and roasted poblano chili. While some raja recipes call for only cream (and… lots of it), other regional variations use a combo of cream with a hefty dose of cheese, the latter taking on the characteristics of another rich dish, queso fundido. Other add-ins include chicken bouillon cubes for flavor and cream cheese to keep the sauce from breaking. This is comfort food 101 and often makes an appearance at breakfast, lunch or dinner as a vegetarian taco, or as a cheesy party dip with corn chips and hot salsa on the side.
While this is an easy dish to master, there are culinary tricks that ensure success. Mexican sour cream is not like American sour cream— it should not be substituted. If you can’t find Mexican Crema, which is thinner in texture and not tangy, use crème fraiche instead. When you fold in the cheese, make sure to pull the pot off the heat first, then stir the cheese into the sauce with a wooden spatula. The cheese should melt into the corn, chile and cream mixture slowly to prevent separation. It’s also crucial not to eliminate the secret ingredient—mayo. It acts as a binding agent and further prevents the sauce from breaking down into a gooey mess while keeping its texture rich and creamy. You’ll get the best results if you use really fresh corn. However, if the corn is over one day old, add a bit of sugar to the cooking water. It’s crucial not to boil the corn, which toughens its proteins. Instead, let the corn “cook off” in hot water for 15 minutes before removing the kernels from the cobb. This ensures that the corn will be tender and not dried out.
Rajas con Crema pairs well with any mezcal or tequila drink and can be reheated in the microwave on medium heat for 30 seconds.
Rajas Con Crema
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon Avocado oil
2 poblano chiles
2 ears of yellow corn
1 teaspoon garlic, micro-planed (about 3 large cloves)
1/6 cup fried corn tortilla strips
½ teaspoon Melissa’s Red Hatch Chile Powder
fresh lime wedges
Cream & Cheese Sauce
2 heaping tablespoons good-quality mayo (Best Foods or Hellmann's)
1/3 cup Mexican Crema
¼ cup cotija cheese
¼ cup shredded Jack cheese
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Place chiles over the grate of a gas stove and heat on high until charred and black. Using tongs, turn chiles over, and continue until all sides are blistered and black. Remove chiles from heat and place in a plastic bag, and close. Allow chile to steam for at least 15 minutes, then remove skin by gently rubbing it off with your fingers. (Do not rinse chili under water to remove the skin; this will remove its requisite subtle smoky flavor.) Remove stems and seeds, and chop into 1/3-inch strips, then set aside.
Place a large pot of water over high heat and bring to a boil. If corn is older than one day, add 1/3 cup of granulated white sugar and mix to combine. Add corn to water, and when water returns to a boil, cover. Immediately remove from heat and allow corn to cook off in residual heat for 15 minutes. Remove corn and briefly rinse under cool water. When cool enough to handle, cut kernels from cobb and set aside.
Set a 5-quart, cast-iron, porcelain-lined pot on the stove and heat on medium heat. Add butter and oil and heat till sizzling and melted. Add garlic and stir till fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add chiles and stir till warm and slightly wilted. Add corn and stir till heated—about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to medium-low, and add mayo and crema. Stir with wooden spatula till combined—about 1 minute. Remove pot from heat. Add cheese and stir with wooden spatula till incorporated. Add lime and stir to combine. If using as an appetizer, mound onto serving plate and top with Hatch red chile powder and pair with corn tortilla chips. If serving tacos, spoon rajas mixture into warm corn tortillas.