Friday, June 7, 2013

Esquites, aka "Elote Salad"

Anyone who knows me personally knows of my love for El Barrio, a restaurant here in Birmingham that specializes in multi-regional Mexican cuisine. Don't expect to see a blob of refried beans the color of school chocolate milk or boring yellow rice with little peas in it - these guys do it RIGHT. 

The menu changes with the seasons, but ANYTIME I see the "Elote Asado" on the menu, I HAVE to get it. If elote sounds familiar, it's because I posted a recipe for it about two years ago, after the BF acquired a fancypants new gas grill. I'm absolutely OBSESSED with Elote, and could probably eat it every single day. I honestly CAN'T eat corn any other way now. 

Elote is so simple - it's sweet summer corn, grilled, then topped with anything from butter to mayonnaise to cotija cheese. It doesn't sound all that impressive, but the flavors are amazing together. Now, if you don't really feel like dealing with whole ears/cobs of corn, or, maybe you don't have a grill, you can make "Esquites", which is a Mexican corn salad, or, basically, Elote in a bowl. 

Instead of grilling the corn, the kernels are slightly charred in a skillet or wok on the stovetop. Then, the corn is tossed with all of the yummy (totally unhealthy but so delicious) ingredients that make elote so delicious. Easy! 

Esquites, aka "Elote Salad"
kinda adapted from Serious Eats

2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 ears fresh corn
3 Tbsp mayonnaise
2 Tbsp cotija cheese, crumbled (use feta if you can't find cotija)
1-2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 cloves garlic, grated or pressed
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Chili powder or cayenne pepper

Shuck the corn, removing all of the husk and silk. Cut the kernels off of the cob. You can use a sharp knife - I'm not big on "single use" kitchen accessories, but I bought this little device since I eat a LOT of corn, and it works GREAT. 4 ears of corn should yield about 3 cups of kernels. You could probably use frozen corn kernels for this recipe, but I've never tried it. 

Plus, as corn comes into season here, it gets DIRT cheap. Like, 10 ears for a DOLLAR cheap. 

Melt the butter in a heavy-skillet or wok (preferably a wok) over medium-high heat. Add the corn and a pinch of kosher salt, tossing to combine. 

Cook the corn, without stirring or moving the skillet, for about 2-3 minutes or until lightly charred. Toss/stir the corn, then let cook, without stirring or moving the skillet, for about 2-3 more minutes. Repeat the tossing/stirring/cooking/charring one more time, for another 2-3 minutes, or a total of 10 minutes of charring time. 

Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. 

Add the mayonnaise, cotija cheese (Because I had some left over, so I used feta and a little bit of Parmigiana Reggiano), lime juice, garlic, scallions (mine looked kind of sad, so I left them out) and cilantro. Toss to combine. 

Taste and add chili powder or cayenne pepper to taste. Serve warm.


  1. This looks soooooooo good! I think I'll try this as an accompaniment to our next barbecue!

    1. Sounds great!! I hope y'all enjoy it!

  2. I'm really terrified of mayonnaise--is there anything I can substitute for it?? Thanks!

    1. Mayonnaise is what makes this authentic, but you could try sour cream/creme fraiche/crema fresca or maybe Greek yogurt. I have NOT tried these substitutions myself, though.

  3. I love this corn. You could also use Vegannaise if you didn't want to use mayo, or any crema (columbian/salvidorian/mexican, etc) It's similar to sour cream, and found in most ethic markets where they sell the speciality mexican/south american cheeses. Although I've never cut mine off of the cob, and that sounds brilliant!