Esquites are the salad form of elotes, charcoal-grilled Mexican corn on the cob that is slathered with a creamy sauce, seasoned with chile powder and lime juice and topped with Cotija, a crumbly, aged Mexican cheese. This version doesn’t require a grill, and instead chars the corn kernels in a hot skillet until browned and caramelized. Cotija brings salty, milky accents to the salad. Ancho chile powder adds smoky notes, but you can use any type of chile powder you favor. Leftovers transform quickly into a great pasta salad the next day; simply toss with cooked pasta and olive oil.
- Serves: 6 persons
- 2tablespoons safflower or canola oil
- 6cups fresh corn kernels (from 6 to 7 ears fresh corn)
- Kosher salt and black pepper
- 6tablespoons mayonnaise
- 6tablespoons Mexican crema or sour cream
- 2tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 1tablespoon fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
- 4ounces Cotija cheese (scant 1 cup)
- Ancho chile powder (or chipotle or cayenne), for sprinkling
Step 1In a large cast iron or heavy skillet, heat oil over medium-high. Add corn, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until corn is nicely charred and softened, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let stand for 2 minutes. (This helps the corn pick up more char and smoky flavor.)
Step 2Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine mayonnaise, crema, cilantro and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. Reserve 1/4 cup sauce in a small bowl for drizzling.
Step 3Add seared corn to the large bowl, season with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving platter, spreading corn mixture in an even layer. Drizzle with the reserved sauce, and sprinkle with Cotija and chile powder. Garnish with more cilantro and serve with lime wedges.