by Sean Keeley, culinary specialist, Lincoln Land Community College
Sweet corn is one of the most popular fresh vegetables sold during summer. And we Illinoisans are right inside the middle of the Corn Belt. But that Corn Belt is mainly Dent corn, or Field corn, grown for feeding livestock. I was surprised to learn that Illinois is not one of the top producers of sweet corn sold on the cob. That title goes to Florida oddly enough, although the Midwest does grow the most sweet corn used for processing. So there is a good chance that bag of corn you have in the freezer was grown “locally.” I guarantee the fresh corn at the farmers’ market was grown very close to home.
One of my favorite ways to eat sweet corn is “street corn” style, or by its real name, elote (uh LOW tei). The name comes from the Nahuatl word elotitutl which translates to “tender cob.” Corn has been a staple of Latin American cuisine for centuries, and you know I love Latin American food.
My first experience with elote was in California where street vendors would push shopping carts around neighborhoods that had a large pot of hot water with cooked corn inside and the most basic offerings. For one dollar they would put the corn on a stick, slather it in mayonnaise and liberally sprinkle with parmesan cheese from a can – if you were lucky they would offer a napkin. Very simple and very good.
True elote has more ingredients, but almost just as simple. It can be modified many ways to suit your taste, mild or spicy, and I often use it as a replacement for salsa on tacos or in burritos. Below is a traditional recipe for 6 servings, but make your own style by adding mild or hot peppers from the garden, roasted and peeled poblano chili, minced chipotle or even fresh diced tomato. If it sounds good to you, odds are it will taste even better!
Elote, or Street Corn
- 6 ears of corn, cooked using your favorite method
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 cup Mexican crema, or sour cream
- 1 clove garlic, minced fine – or ½ granulated garlic
- 1/2 pound of queso fresca or cotija cheese, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- 1 bunch cilantro minced
- lime wedges
For authentic street corn preheat grill on high. Use your preferred method to cook corn. I like to leave in the husk and cut the corn at the bottom about a half inch above the stem. I then microwave two ears at a time for four minutes. Let the corn cool and grasp firmly near the top (silk end) and wiggle the ear out from the husk. You will have perfectly cooked corn and very little to no silk on the cob. Place the husked ears on the grill and roll around to char up to your liking – you may skip grilling corn if preferred.
Place ear on a large skewer or in corn holders and set aside. Mix mayonnaise, crema (or sour cream) and garlic. Put cheese crumbles on a plate and have the spices, cilantro and lime nearby. Spread some of the mayo mix on each, roll the ear in crumbled cheese, and sprinkle with spices and cilantro. Serve with lime wedges. Another way to serve is to cut the corn from the cob and mix with all other ingredients and the juice of two limes. Serve as a side salad or as a salsa option. Salud!
Want to know more?
Lincoln Land Community College offers associate degree programs in Culinary Arts and Hospitality Management and academic credit certificates in Culinary Arts and Baking/Pastry. For more information call 217-786-4613 or visit www.llcc.edu/hospitality-culinary-arts.