I am fully prepared to receive any contempt for writing a recipe featuring corn in the dead of winter. And not just ordinary corn, but frozen corn. Am I digging myself into a deeper grave? *pauses shoveling*
Please hear me out.
I realize we are about 5 months beyond the pinnacle of fresh corn bounty, with its plump, sticky sweet kernels and messy strands of silk that we find irresistibly difficult to not throw into everything we eat in late summer. But.
I’m human. I have needs and desires. And sometimes, just sometimes, I bear a yearning for something that isn’t in season. That’s when I turn to frozen vegetables.
If you can find an excellent quality of frozen vegetable (hell, if you managed to freeze your own from summer’s harvest even better), and the recipe adapts to it, trust when I say the dish will turn out pretty fantastic regardless. Esquites, this Mexican corn salad, is a beautiful example.
Sometime last year I discovered that you can buy bags of frozen, fire-roasted corn at the grocery store. Since then, I’ve been buying them in bulk to stash in the freezer because they are absolutely terrific to toss in at a moment’s notice. They work wondrously for esquites– sweet and juicy with a definite bold, charred flavor.
I go crazy for elotes, Mexican corn on the cob slathered with garlicky, lime mayonnaise and rolled in Cotija cheese and chile powder. Esquites is basically that in salad, bowl form; it is less messy for sure (a good alternative for first dates because who really wants to exchange likes and dislikes with mayonnaise and corn kernels plastered on face…?) but no less delicious. The flavors in this thing are jolting in a great way.
The corn is tossed in a pungent garlic and lime laced mayonnaise sauce and then anchored together with the herby, bright flavors of cilantro and scallions. The morsels of queso fresco distributed throughout provide a welcoming delicate quality to the esquites that softens the bite some.
The flavors in this Mexican corn salad deepen and enhance the more it sits at room temperature, so restrain yourself from eating it for at least 30 minutes after preparing, difficult as it may be; the experience of tasting this will be worthwhile I promise you.
- 1 - 1 pound bag frozen fire-roasted corn kernels, thawed
- 2 1/2 tablespoons mayonnaise, preferable homemade
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons minced seeded and deveined serrano chile
- 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro leaves
- Zest of 1/2 lime
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon New Mexico chile powder
- 3 ounces queso fresco, crumbled
- In a large bowl, add the corn and mayonnaise. Mince the garlic with 1/4 teaspoon salt and crush with side of knife to make a garlicky paste. Add garlic paste, serrano chile, scallions, cilantro, lime zest and juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and chile powder to bowl; mix. Lastly, add queso fresco and combine gently. Let this sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes if you can help it as this helps develop the flavors even more.
Adapted from Serious Eats
When corn is in season, I'd use fresh, local corn and roast them myself on the grill. For this method, bank on using about 4 ears of corn.
// Other corny things: