The Thrill of the Grill
Photos and Story By Tom Yates
Fire. Heat. Smoke.
It’s summertime and the grilling is easy.
Can anything possibly be better than grilled locally grown fresh corn on the cob slathered with melted butter and doused with salt?
Elotes. Mexican street corn. Smeared with mayo or crema, rolled in cojita cheese, sprinkled with ground chili, and brightened with fresh lime juice, elotes ups the ante on our beloved grilled summer corn candy.
Don’t let the ingredients form a roadblock. Sure, there’s the whole mayo thing. Can’t tolerate mayo? Use crema, sour cream, or butter. Want to take a leap of faith? Try a teeny weeny bit of jarred mayo or whip up a batch of airy, tangy, creamy, and easy homemade mayo. Don’t want to bother with sourcing cojita cheese? Crumbled feta or good quality parmesan are a great substitutes.
Celebrate summer. Snag a few ears of fantastic corn and fire up the grill.
Scratch made mayonnaise is unbelievably simple to throw together.
After cracking 1 whole Elmwood Stock Farm organic egg into a small mason jar, I added 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons neutral canola oil, 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, ¼ teaspoon dried mustard, salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar. Using a hand held immersion blender, I creamed the mix before slowly drizzling in an additional 5 tablespoons canola oil. Within seconds, it emulsified into a creamy dream. A mayonnaise miracle. I slid the mayo into the refrigerator to chill and fired up the grill.
There are no rules when it comes to grilling corn. Shucked or unshucked? Soaked or dried? Wrapped or naked? It really doesn’t matter, if you keep an eye on it during the process. The caramelized toasty bits are fine. Cinders, not so much.
I was lucky enough to stumble across fresh (newly harvested) Lincoln County corn at the farmers market. Still damp from the morning harvest, the fresh corn was a total win.
So, I’m a husk on kind of boy when it comes to grilling corn. The silks are another matter. Some folks don’t bother removing the silks before grilling because they burn away from the heat and flames. Well, I guess I fall in the middle. You see, I grew up on a farm with a zero tolerance for corn silks. My father had kitchen drawers filled with very odd corn silk removing gadgets. No silks allowed. Period. Ever. Although I’m not quite that fussy, I removed some of the silks.
After peeling back the husks, I scraped away most of the silks, loosely formed the husks back over the corn, and tied the ends with a few wayward husk scraps.
When the fire died down, I spread out the glowing coals, and tossed the ears onto the grill. While I didn’t bother soaking the corn, I did spritz the ears with water after they hit the heat. I poured myself a glass of wine, sat down next to the inferno, and turned the ears of corn every few minutes. As the husks burned away, bit of corn kernels singed and caramelized from the heat. After 10 minutes or so, I pulled the corn from the grill and scraped away the burned husks before peeling back the inner husks to reveal the candied corn. Steamed. Charred. Caramelized. Gorgeous.
While the corn was still warm, I brushed it with the lime spiked mayo, tumbled cojita cheese over the top, dusted it with ancho chili powder, and finished with fresh lime zest before scattering lime wedges and fresh cilantro to the side.
Crunchy sweet summer corn. Light creamy mayo. Salty cojita cheese. Spicy ancho chili. Bright fresh lime. Perfect.
Not into a corn facial or wearing elotes on your face, hands, hair, and elbows? Try esquites, the daintier street corn salad version. Simply cut the corn off the cobs after grilling and toss the kernels with all the remaining good stuff.
Summer has arrived.
Get your grill on.
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