Elotes (Mexican street fair corn) salad

July 27, 2012 § 23 Comments

I’ve been meaning to make this corn salad for a ridiculously long time, ever since Joel first told me about the amazing grilled corn he used to eat when he lived in Mexico.  As far as I could tell, he couldn’t bring it up often enough, it was that good.  And from his description, I believed it was exactly as delicious as he remembered it being.

Elotes is grilled corn smeared with mayonnaise, rolled in crumbled cheese and spices, and spritzed with lime.  If you ask me, that hits pretty much all the most important food groups and flavor categories.  It sounded like something I wanted to be able to shovel into my mouth by the forkful.

When I finally tried elotes for the first time a few years ago, I felt not the slightest twinge of disappointment even in the face of sky high expectations. It was absolutely all it was hyped up to be.  The sweetness of the corn kernels is offset by the lime juice and crumbly, salty cotija.  The smooth mayonnaise works as a binder between the corn and the toppings while also blending its own flavor perfectly into the mix.  It is amazing.  Something you will want to eat all summer long as often as you can.

And, true to my prediction, as I gnawed from side to side along my cob of corn, making typewriter noises inside my head of course, I did indeed wish I could shovel it into my mouth by the forkful.  This desire is exactly why I’ve been wanting to make this salad version of the corn.

But, somehow I frequently forget to follow up on these sorts of ideas, so it’s taken me awhile to get around to it.  It took, in fact, until I got to test someone else’s version of just such a recipe.  My memory jogged, I jumped at the chance.  And it was phenomenal, warm and creamy and salty.  But, it didn’t align quite perfectly with my mental image of what I had been planning to make when I remembered I had been planning to make it.  (Did you get that?)  So, after testing, I began to tinker.

It was very minor tinkering.  I made the slightest adjustments to the spices and I added cilantro because everything about a combination of corn, cheese, mayo, and chili powder says to me, with a demanding look, “where’s the cilantro?”

There’s the cilantro!  And where there is cilantro, avocado is usually not far behind.  There was nothing I could do to keep avocado from joining in the fun, so I chunked one up and folded it in.  Finally my vision was complete!  And we shoveled it into our mouths by the forkful.

Elotes Salad (serves 4) (I was inspired to make this by testing this recipe, but it also closely mirrors at least a dozen other recipes I’ve seen for similar dishes.  It’s not unique, but what does that matter when something tastes so good!)

  • 4 cobs of corn
  • 1 small lime
  • 2 heaping Tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 3/4 tsp. chili powder
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a heaped half cup of crumbled Cotija cheese (grated Manchego is also really good with the corn)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled and cut into chunks
  1. There are two potential ways to prepare the corn.  You can grill it by peeling off the husks, rubbing the corn with a bit of olive oil and throwing it on the grill, cooking and turning until it is tender and lightly charred on the outside.  Then, once it has cooled enough, slice the kernels from the cobs.  OR you can slice the kernels from the cobs while still raw, toss them with a bit of olive oil and spread them in a baking pan.  Then, put them under the broiler until they are tender and caramelizing and making popping noises.  Either way the corn will be excellent in the salad.
  2. When your corn kernels are still warm but no longer piping hot, sprinkle them with some salt and pepper and toss them with the mayonnaise, the juice from the lime, the chili and cayenne.  Then, fold in the cotija, and cilantro.  Taste and add salt and pepper to taste.  And finally, when ready to serve, gently stir in the avocado chunks.
  3. Serve warm, or keep in the refrigerator (it will keep for a couple days) and serve chilled.  This is excellent as a light meal by itself, fried between tortillas as a quesadilla, or served alongside grilled meat or fish.

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