Anyone that has spent a summer in Chicago is familiar with Elotes. You can’t walk outside without passing a vendor selling the never nearly big enough cups full of shaved sweet corn topped with butter, crema, mayonnaise, chile, lime, cheese, and other goodies. It’s so fucking delicious, and completely essential to our lifestyles, but it can also be kind of hard to eat in the middle of summer, when it’s 90 degrees and 120% humidity.
After a one too many curdled lactose comas this year, we decided it was finally time to work out a recipe that has all of the savory, cheesy, spicy goodness of the stuff you can find on the street but is a little fresher, a little less creamy, and a lot more stable at room temperature.
A few notes on Corn:
Always choose firm, tightly closed ears with damp silks (the little tassel hanging out the end) and cleanly cut ends that aren’t all dried out and crusty. To find the best ears, peel back the first bit of husk and see if there are well-formed kernels are right at the tip. The best, sweetest corn will have plump, juicy ones all along the length of the ear.
Whenever possible, buy your corn fresh from the farmer and cook it immediately. Corn has evolved protective enzymatic processes that start to convert its easily digestible, hella tasty, nutritious carbohydrates into completely indigestible flavorless garbage the second that it’s picked. The good news is that you can stop that enzyme nonsense by cooking the corn the minute you get home and saving it for whenever it’s ready to be used.
If you can’t buy it from the farm or farmers market, we really recommend frozen corn. The stuff you can buy in the produce section has been sitting for a really long time and, if it tastes like anything but cardboard, it’s probably been genetically modified beyond recognition to withstand that much shelf time. Frozen corn, however, is usually cut and frozen the day it’s picked and is really yummy.
It should go without saying, but canned corn is a waste of pantry space. Don’t even bother with it.
Roasted Corn and Cilantro Salad
- 10 ears of fresh Sweet Corn
- 1 Red Pepper
- 1/2 medium Jicama
- 1/4-1 small Jalapeno, more if you like it spicy, less if you don’t
- 1 large bunch of Cilantro
- 2 Limes, juice only
- 4 Tbsp Olive Oil
- 2-4 oz Queso Fresco or Cajita- if you don’t have good Mexican hard cheeses available to you, feta is an OK substitution. In an absolute dire strait, you can use grated parmesan cheese.
- 1 tsp Chilli Powder- or 1 tsp Cumin and a pinch of Cayenne
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Serves: 6-10, this makes 6-8 cups of salad.
If you have access to a grill, get it nice and hot. Otherwise, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. Fill a clean sink with plenty of water. Peel back the husks from each ear of corn without removing them, pull away the silks, and let them soak for a few minutes in the sink full of water. This cleans the corn, of course, but also gets a little extra moisture into the husks so you don’t light shit on fire.
Pull the husks back into place and roast the corn in the oven (or on the grill) for about 20 minutes, turning frequently. Even though you soaked the husks, please be mindful of not lighting your corn / face on fire. Once cooked, allow the corn to cool so you can handle it without burning the bejeezus out of your hands.
Seed and dice the red pepper. Peel and dice the jicama. Wash the cilantro and remove the leaves from the stems. We’re only using the leaves here, but the stems are delicious in sauces or for roasting fish— so don’t throw them away, they freeze great until you’re ready to use them.
Roast, seed, and finely dice the jalapeno and then wash the hell out of your hands. The best way to make your fingers stop being spicy is to lube your hands up with plenty of olive oil, and then wash with plenty of dish soap. Capsaicin (the stuff that makes peppers spicy) is not water soluble, but it is extremely fat soluble. Soaking your hands in olive oil traps all the capsaicin in the fat, and the dish soap washes the fat away. To test how well you’ve washed your hands, lick your fingers. If capsaicin is still present, they’ll taste spicy and, if they taste spicy, don’t like put in your contacts or touch your junk because it will fucking hurt. Unless you’re into that. No judgement. (but judgment)
Once the corn is cooled, remove and discard the husks, and slice the corn from the cob with a large serrated knife.
Combine all of the veggies in big bowl with the chili pepper. Toss with lime juice, and olive oil. Queso fresco and cajita are both super salty, so add those and then check to see if you need extra salt and pepper.
This stuff tastes best after hanging out for twenty minutes in the fridge, but is perfectly fine right away. Remember to toss well before serving. This stuff keeps for about 4 days in the fridge, tightly sealed. It’s great with grilled meats, but also works as sort of pseudo salsa.