Revelation at the taco stand

Mexican-style grilled corn: A perfectly plump, gloriously golden ear of corn, lounging beside a wedge of lime. It was hot and salty, creamy and tangy, at once.

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Mexican grilled corn (Bill Hogan, Chicago Tribune / June 29, 2010)

Corn is complicated. That keyboard of kernels. The layers of leaves. The long hair — a single strand for every kernel, they say. Corn has coined its own vocabulary: What other vegetable grows as an ear, on a cob? What other crop demands detassling in the field, shucking in the kitchen?

And yet, the cookbook is always chiding the cook to treat sweet corn simply. Just boil and butter. Just roll across the grill. Just peel and eat. Yielding mushy corn. Or dehydrated corn. Or raw corn. All of which I have prepared and served. Bitter with disappointment.

Gnawing over hard cob and easy recipe, I decided to try again. Working my way through a bushel basket, I tried boil. I tried steam. I tried grill. I tried give up.

Instead I went out for a taco. There, post-margarita, pre-guacamole, I found the answer: a perfectly plump, gloriously golden ear of corn, lounging beside a wedge of lime. It was hot and salty, creamy and tangy, at once.

My taco guy refused to dish. But I cracked the code: Doing right by corn takes some doing. Back home I came up with a version that calls for steam, slather, sizzle, slather, shower and spritz. Like corn, it's complicated. And calls for its own lingo. Something like de-lucious.

Eskin is a Tribune special contributor.

leahreskin@aol.com

De-lucious grilled corn

Makes: 4 servingsPrep: 20 minutesCook: 35 minutes

4 ears corn, husks on

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 teaspoon lime juice

Salt

Ground red pepper

1/4 cup finely grated queso fresco

1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

1Prep: Soak corn (husk and all) in a large pot of cold water, 20 minutes. Weight down with a plate, if need be. Stir together mayo, lime juice and a pinch of salt in a small bowl.

2Steam: Set corn (husk and all) over a medium-hot fire and grill, turning regularly, until husks are charred, 30 minutes. Pull off heat.

3Grill: Using oven mitts and caution, shuck corn, discarding silk and husk (or discard silk and fold back husks for a dramatic look). Brush lightly with mayo mixture. Set corn directly over a medium-hot fire, and grill golden brown, turning regularly, 4 minutes.

4Season: Brush corn generously with mayo mixture. Sprinkle with cheese, and dust lightly with pepper. Serve with a wedge of lime, for spritzing.

Provenance: Inspired by my local taco stop, which was inspired by the Mexican street treat.
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