My first experience of Mexican street corn, also known as elotes, wasn’t in Mexico but Valencia. Walking home from the beach one evening I thought I could smell freshly made popcorn, and then the intoxicating aromas of cheese, chilli and garlic took over.
I remember seeing people walking past holding whole cobs of corn with what, at first, looked like melted butter dripping down the cobs or their chin.
Then I saw a small barbecue set up on the side of the road and realised that this was where the delicious aroma was coming from.
Hungry from a hard day of swimming and sunbathing, I took my place in the queue. It took a while because the barbecue was so small, but it was worth the wait.
Even with the first bite I could taste the cheese and garlic, the chilli, coriander and lime all at once and it was delicious. Elotes is a traditional dish of grilled corn on the cob, liberally spread with a mixture of mayonnaise and Mexican crema which is spiked with chilli powder, lime, coriander and Mexican cheese.
The cheese typically used in Mexico is Cotija but, if this is difficult to obtain, feta is a very good substitute. Mexican crema may also not be available, but sour cream can definitely replace it.
Mexican-style street corn – elotes (Serves 3)
3 whole cobs of corn, husks still on
For the topping
- 50ml mayonnaise
- 50ml sour cream
- 100g finely crumbled feta cheese
- ½ teaspoon ancho chilli powder
- 1 fat garlic clove, finely minced
- 25g finely chopped coriander, leaves and stems
- Zest and juice of 1 small lime
- Mexican hot sauce
- Crumbled feta cheese
- Ancho chilli powder
- Finely chopped coriander
- Lime wedges
- Finely chopped red chilli (optional)
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Fan 6. Soak the cobs in water for about 10 minutes then wrap in tin foil lined with parchment paper and put into the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes, the soaked husks will help to steam the corn and make it succulent.
While the corn is cooking make the topping by combining the mayonnaise, sour cream, feta, chilli powder, garlic, coriander, lime zest, lime juice and your favourite hot sauce. Stir well and set aside.
Remove the corn from the oven and peel back the husks but don’t remove them completely, tie back with a piece of string and you have an instant handle. Remove the silks as best you can.
Put a large griddle pan on a high heat and griddle the cobs for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally to obtain griddle marks on the corn which will give it a lovely toasted flavour. Any remaining silks will become brittle and fall off in the pan.
Transfer the cobs to a serving plate and spoon or paint on the cheese mixture. Add extra cheese, coriander, chilli powder and a squeeze of lime and sprinkle over some finely chopped red chilli for an extra kick of heat and a splash of colour.