Easier-To-Eat Elotes

All the deliciousness of elotes, but off the cob.
All the deliciousness of elotes, but off the cob.

Elotes is decidedly not pinkies-in-the-air kind of food.

The grilled Mexican street corn on the cob slathered with mayo, rolled in crumbly cotija cheese, sprinkled with chili powder and chopped cilantro, and finished with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, is one of the most eagerly awaited noshes of summer.

It’s also a two-napkin affair. If not more.

“Tossed Elotes,” though, gives you everything you love about that Mexican dish — but off the cob to eat more neatly with a fork.

Not only that, there’s no mayo, just a generous amount of olive oil instead that forms the base of a voluptuous sauce that the kernels get tossed with.

This easy recipe is from “Asada” (Abrams, 2023), of which I received a review copy.

The cookbook, which is all about the joys of Mexican-style grilling, was written by Bricia Lopez, whose family owns the James Beard Award-winning Oaxacan restaurant, Guelaguetza, in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. She’s also the founder of the blog, Mole and More; and co-founder of the “Super Mamas” podcast with her sister Paulina. The book was written with Javier Cabral, a Los Angeles food writer who is the editor-in-chief of the local news site, L.A. Taco and was the associate producer for Netflix’s “The Taco Chronicles.”

As Lopez explains in the forward of the book, “Carne asada is not just a taco.” Indeed, grilling meat encompasses so much more in the Mexican culture. It is all about bringing friends and family together outside over joyous times indulging in grilled meats and vegetables, and all the fixings.

That includes “Salsa Borracha Ribs” (with a spicy sauce flavored with chiopotles in adobo and dark Mexican beer), “Four Chile Snapper,” “Epazote-Roasted Mushroom Queso Fundido,” “Toasted Corn Horchata,” and “Jamaica, Ginger, and Blackberry Paletas.”

The corn and poblano get grilled until charred and tender.
The corn and poblano get grilled until charred and tender.

For this version of elotes, ears of corn are shucked before grilling. The recipe calls for white corn, but I used a mix of white plus bi-color. The recipe also called for cutting the cobs in half crosswise before grilling, but I don’t think that’s actually necessary, so I left them whole.

Remove the stems and seeds from a poblano pepper, then cut in half, before adding to the grill to char and soften. Once it’s done, blitz the pepper in a blender with lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, cumin, garlic, a pinch of sugar, whole-grain mustard, and cayenne. The recipe also called for 2 teaspoons sea salt, but I used less, about 1 1/4 teaspoons. So, adjust to your personal taste.

This corn salad can be prepared hours ahead of time, and refrigerated until you're ready to serve.
This corn salad can be prepared hours ahead of time, and refrigerated until you’re ready to serve.

When the corn is tender and charred all over, remove the kernels from the cobs. Toss the kernels with the poblano dressing, then garnish with crumbled cotija and fresh parsley (though, you can use the more traditional cilantro, if you prefer).

The dressing is surprisingly creamy, with a gentle tickle of heat and a lush green, grassy note. It would actually be incredible on a salad of crisp romaine leaves, too, or dolloped over grilled asparagus or grilled shrimp.

The grilling caramelizes the corn’s natural sweetness and adds a nice smokiness. Add in the dressing and the salty, rich cotija cheese, and you get grilled corn’s more extra cousin.

And a dish you could eat pinkies up — if so desired.

Cheesy, creamy, smoky, and a little spicy.
Cheesy, creamy, smoky, and a little spicy.

Tossed Elotes

(Serves 6)

5 ears sweet white corn, shucked and halved crosswise

1 poblano chile, cored, stems and seeds removed, cut in half

1/3 cup fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup olive oil

2 tablespoons champagne vinegar

1 teaspoon cane sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/4 teaspoon finely minced garlic

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon whole-grain mustard

1 to 2 teaspoons sea salt or to taste

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the garnishes:

1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley (or cilantro)

1/2 cup crumbled fresh cotija

Start a charcoal or gas grill. The gas should be set to high. If using a pellet grill, preheat your grill to 425°F (220°C) for at least 15 minutes. If using charcoal, the coals should be red but entirely covered with gray ash.

Place the corn and poblano directly on the grill. Grill them for about 20 minutes, flipping constantly until charred. Remove from the gill. In a blender, add the roasted poblano, lemon juice, olive oil, vinegar, sugar, cumin, garlic, mustard, salt, and cayenne. Blend until smooth.

Remove the corn kernels by standing the cob upright and carefully shaving the kernels off from the top to bottom using a chef’s knife. Rotate the cob to make sure to shave all sides of the corn.

Toss with corn with the poblano dressing. Top the salad with the chopped parsley and fresh cotija.

This tossed elote can be made up to 5 hours ahead.

Adapted from “Asado” by Bricia Lopez with Javier Cabral

More Corn Recipes to Enjoy: Creamy Corn Bucatini

And: Dorie Greenspan’s Philadelphia Blueberry-Corn Tart

And: Miao Pork with Corn and Chiles

And: Corn, Tomato and Scallion Salad

And: Tabouleh with Quinoa, Corn, Scallion, and Goat Cheese

And: Foreign Cinema’s Buttermilk Spoon Bread with Shiitakes, Corn, and Scallions

And: Stir-Fried Corn with Basil, Leeks and Cumin

And: Corn with Hoisin-Orange Butter

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