August 18, 2013

Mexican Street Corn Salad

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Mexican Street Corn is irresistible, with its coating of salty cheese and accents of lime and chili. When cravings overtake me outside of corn season or even in the dead of winter, I can still get my fix. This deconstructed, year-round salad offers the street corn experience without the fuss and mess.

       Mexican corn in salad form. Credit: Susan Sampson


1 tbsp (15 mL) extra virgin olive oil
1-1/2 lb (750 g)frozen corn kernels, thawed (4 cups/1 L)
1/2 tsp (2 mL) or more kosher salt
2 tbsp (30 mL) lime juice
1/2 tsp (2 mL) ancho chili powder
3 oz (90 g) cotija cheese, grated
1/2 cup (125 mL) diced red onion
1/4 cup (60 mL) finely chopped cilantro
Crema or sour cream to taste

Pat dry corn with paper towels. In 12-inch (30 cm) skillet (preferably cast iron), heat oil on medium-high until shimmery. Add corn and 1/2 tsp (2 mL) salt, stirring to coat with oil. Cook, undisturbed, 4 minutes, or until starting to brown in spots. Stir. Cook, undisturbed, 2 minutes, or until turning golden-brown. Repeat once or twice, until charred golden-brown in spots.

Transfer to serving bowl. Cool to room temperature. Stir in lime juice and ancho powder. Add cheese, onion and cilantro. Toss together with fork. Adjust salt. Before serving, top with dollops of crema or sour cream.

Makes 4 servings.

  • You can use fresh corn kernels. Evaporating the steam is unnecessary and they won’t take as long to sear.

Kitchen Secrets: For the most effective charring, make sure the corn is dry and avoid using a non-stick skillet.

Shopping Cart: Some supermarkets sell ancho chili powder. It is slightly spicy. If desired, substitute standard chili con carne powder (which is a blend) plus cayenne for kick.

Elotes vs. Esquites: In Mexico, whole ears of grilled or boiled street-food corn are known as elotes. When corn kernels are sautéed and seasoned, they become esquites.

C is for Cotija: This Mexican cheese is salty and tangy, similar to feta but drier. Queso Duro Blando is considered a substitute, although this name can refer to any hard white, whole milk cheese, with some types blander, some peppier. If you don’t want to make a separate trip to the Mexican shop or cheese store, you may substitute firm cow’s milk feta, and grate it. Be warned, though – it will end up clumpier.

C is for Crema: Mexican sour cream is known as crema. It is similar to crème fraiche – milder and thinner than standard sour cream.