Citizens, we have reached the official beginning of Summer here in the U.S. and that means Memorial Day Weekend has arrived with all that entails! First off, we should collectively bow our heads in a moment of silent reflection in honor of the warriors who paid the ultimate price in defending our country – we all remain forever in their debt!
Second, it is of course time to fire up the grill – and you can do no better than starting with any of the meats found at our sponsor, the unmatched Huntspoint – they supply the meats to all the champions on the BBQ circuit. They are universally acknowledged by the pros for having the best in both Wagyu and regular beef as well as heirloom pork for the grill and we are honored to have them supporting TFD (tell Johnny TFD sent you!). Once you have their superlative protein in-hand, what will you serve it with? You can do no better than this classic Mexican street food of esquites, grilled corn salad!
As noted in a well-researched article on wisegeek.com:
Esquites is a dish that takes its name from a native Mexican Indian language called Nahuatl; the dish consists of toasted corn that fashions a handy snack for many of those on the go in Mexico and surrounding areas. The Nahuatl word izquitl was translated into the Spanish Esquites.
In many presentations of this dish, cooks first boil corn, then sauté it in butter to provide the toasted yet edible consistency for this food. In some cases, cooks may also serve this in the form of whole corn ears similarly garnished with the same elements that the toasted corn recipes include. With the toasted corn snack, Esquites is often served in small cups, in what some cooks referred to as a “buttery broth.”
In some traditional areas where Esquites originated, this food is sold out of carts or small kiosks along the street. As part of popular street food, Esquites represents many of the aspects of other street foods; the butter element makes this dish rather high in fat, and quite tasty. In other presentations, this dish may be served indoors, for example, as part of a formal food event or celebration of Mexican food or street food traditions.
In addition to butter, cooks often add a number of other ingredients to Esquites for additional flavoring. Some of these include different varieties of hot peppers, such as chipotles, jalepenos, and peppers native to the areas of origin, as well as lime juice. Aside from these, the herb cilantro is often used for its distinctly fresh flavor, but another Mexican traditional herb is even more frequently included in the toasted corn dish. This is called epazote, and experts describe as having a pungent aroma and flavor that distinguishes the taste of the corn mix.
Those looking for authentic versions of this dish can get it in Tijuana and parts of Baja California, although some food experts claim that many of today’s food vendors are changing recipes from the traditional ones in order to cut costs. Travelers can often find this food item in the form of whole ears, where a grilled version may sell under the name of elotes asados, and a boiled whole ear form as elotes cocidos.
The single kernel corn will often be sold as elotes desgranado and in the cup as elote de vaso. These versions may or may not contain some of the traditional herbs, but they do give buyers insight into how recipes for the dish have changed in Mexican street food culture.
Another of the most famous places to get this dish is in New York City, where specific food vendors offer this dish to tourists and locals alike. In these versions of the dish, cayenne pepper appears prominently. Certain cheeses are also usually added.
Citizens, my version of the dish hews closely to tradition – I personally prefer chipotle powder instead of cayenne powder as it adds to the smoky aspects of the dish. Before boiling the corn, I do lightly char the kernels to further add flavor, color and texture to the corn and my seasonings are of course beyond reproach.
This is a dish that deserves authenticity – if you can find it, do use the classic Mexican white corn, elote blanco, for this recipe. Some Latin grocers and farmers markets catering to the Hispanic community might have them – grab it if you see it! Failing that, white corn or even regular old yellow corn will work just fine. Epazote is optional in many recipes for this dish, but I strongly recommend using it – you can buy fresh plants here or dried here.
Enjoy your long holiday weekend, ! Try enjoying this esquites recipe with another grilling Mexican favorite – tacos al Pastor!
Battle on – the Generalissimo
The Hirshon Mexican Corn Salad – Esquites
- Total Time: 0 hours
- To cook the corn:
- 4 ears Mexican white corn, elote blanco (use regular white corn if you can’t find it, but the taste will be different) to obtain 3 cups
- Epazote to taste, optional but recommended – use fresh if you can find it, dried if you can’t
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 4 cups water
- 1/4 white onion, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely-chopped
- Salt to taste
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. butter
- 2 Tbsp. mayonnaise – TFD prefers Duke’s for this recipe
- 2 ounces Bulgarian feta or Mexican Cotija cheese, finely crumbled
- 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions, green parts only
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp. minced red onion
- 1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or grated on a Microplane grater (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)
- 1 Tbsp. fresh juice from 1 lime
- Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste – TFD likes Chipotle for the smoky flavor
- Freshly-ground cumin to taste
- Start by removing the husks and silk from the corn. Cut off the top and base of the cob. This will make it easier to cut the kernels off the cob.
- Very lightly char the corn all over on a hot dry griddle.
- Remove the kernels from the cob. Hold one end of the cob with your hand and place the other end of the cob on the cutting board. Hold the cob at a 45-degree angle. Use a sharp knife to cut the kernels off and be sure to always cut away from your hands and body. You will need 3 cups of kernels.
- Add water, stock, salt, garlic, onion and epazote to a large pot. Add corn and bring to a boil, then lower heat to medium. Cook until about ⅔ of the liquid has evaporated. If the corn is still too tough after the liquid has reduced, add 1 cup stock and cook until you get the desired texture. Repeat if needed. You want a little bit of liquid to remain. It goes in each cup when you serve.
- While this is going on, heat another pan over medium heat. Add the butter, onion and garlic to a frying pan and cook until the onion is translucent. Add to drained corn mixture, combine with all other ingredients and serve in individual cups with some of the corn cooking liquid at the bottom of each cup..
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Category: Recipes
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