Esquites: Mexican Street Corn Salad
Even though we resisted the food blogger trend toward "discovering" (i.e. Columbusing) Mexican street corn, we can no longer remember a time when this wonderful Mexican street corn salad was not yet part of our lives. Esquites is a versatile crowd-pleaser of a side dish.
Psst...good-quality frozen corn works great in this recipe and saves the effort of shucking. 20 ounces of frozen corn should be about equal to the 6 ears called for in the recipe.
Mexican street corn salad, where ya been all my life?
It's been a while now since the food blog world embraced Mexican street corn (elotes) and Mexican street corn salad (esquites). Usually when a trend this big hits the food blogs I take the following approach: Lalalalalala...shut up shut up shut up. But every once in a while I'm like: Lalalalalala...shut up shut up shut up...HUH...wait, that looks amazing actually. As they say in Mexico, NO DUH. (Or was that in 4th grade? Doesn't matter.)
Esquites, you were right there all along.
Couldn't tell ya what I've been waiting for with this one. I first noticed esquites on Serious Eats circa 2012, and eventually it became as difficult to avoid as the mosquitos in my yard while I was photographing these esquites. Still, I did a damn fine job thinking I was smarter than or different from or what have you. Not a good call. When is it ever?
What is esquites?
Here's what you need to know. We'll start with elotes. Street vendors in Mexico grill corn on the cob in its husk until it's nice and charred. Then, the husk gets peeled back like a handle. Then, condiments. Because yay condiments! Salt, lime, butter, crema, mayo, cotija cheese, chili powder. Some or all. Again. Yay.
Moving right along. Some people have a seat and a spoon. Or they have braces or dentures. Or they don't have a grill, or they don't have dental floss. Point being, sometimes you want your corn on the cob...off the cob. Enter esquites. It's elotes, but off the cob. We call it a salad to make you feel good. Doesn't matter.
Just eat it. Start now. Don't be a dummy like me. See you soon.
- 6 ears of corn (or substitute 20 ounces good-quality frozen corn)
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder (the American kind thats a spice blend)
- 2 scallions, white and green parts sliced
- Handful of cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
- Juice of 1/2 lime
- 2 ounces cotija cheese (or substitute feta)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Shuck the corn and cut the kernels off the cobs. Reserve the cobs to make soup (recipe coming soon).
- Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron or other heavy skillet. When it shimmers, add the corn kernels and let sit for a few minutes to start browning. Stir and let sit again. Repeat this process until there is nice browning in lots of spots, 10 to 15 minutes total.
- Add the minced garlic to the skillet and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Remove from heat and let cool for at least 10 minutes, until just warm. (Place in a bowl if you like to speed cooling.)
- In a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, chili powder, and some salt and pepper. Stir into the corn. Add the scallions, cilantro, lime juice and cotija and toss. Taste for seasoning and add more of anything you like. Salud!