I’ll soon come out of the spell that Mexico has cast upon me, but with an alternate work-life going on down there, it’s hard to escape the marvel of the cuisine. We don’t know anything of it here in the States. What passes as Mexican here simply cannot be found there. Last week, I finally had the honor of eating at Pujol, where local ingredients were elevated into a meal fit for royalty. After that, I simply could not turn my attention toward any less subtle pull. If I had half the talent of the chefs at Pujol or the grandmothers who work for days over a true mole, I probably would not have cut my thumb deeply on my mandolin trying to recreate a salad. That’s why I’m a little late in posting this week. I’ve been forced to become a lefty for the time being. But alas, a true cook marches on. And so shall I.
I grew up in corn fields and so I hesitate to make any corn recipe before July or August. But young corn has started to make its way up to New York from the South and I was longing for this so I indulged. With corn, freshness is key. If you could bring a grill out to the cornfield and cook the corn right there off the stalk, that would be the ideal freshness. Each moment the corn is away from the stalk, more of its natural sugars turn to starch and change the experience. So get your corn as fresh as possible. Otherwise canned corn will do. Here you char it, slather it with a mixture of butter and mayonnaise, cumin and smoked chili pepper with a twist of citrus-y lime and you are golden. You can eat it fresh off the cob or cut the kernels off and put it in a jar to make a more elegant appetizer, fork and spoon style. Either way, this corn is something bright and exalted, like the first rays of sun beaming through the corn fields in spring.
Let me tell you a little bit about why I’m obsessed with Mexico. Only in Mexico do I stop at a street stall and order soft tacos with molcajetes full of bright, delicious salsas or buy stuffed churros from the man on the corner, sip smoky mezcal, listening with moist eyes to sentimental songs from street musicians. I know Mexico City is supposed to be dangerous, but when I’m working there and my evenings look like this– full of art and artistry– even after a long day, I find myself surveying the night and thinking for the hundredth time, what an extraordinary place this is. And though I long for home and everyone I love, my fresh country produce and all that I know and hold dear, a piece of my heart and now my thumb, is sectioned off for Mexico.
I’ve managed to secure myself some time back at home for a bit and I’m so excited to be here. The time with family and friends is not only precious, but it comes in the perfect season where everything wonderful begins again at the farmers’ markets! I’m so excited to share the recipes I’ve been trying to find the time to make. I woke up last night bursting with a list of everything I want to create. I need to get my hands on the “first mess of peas” for a recipe using the old-school pasta maker that Michelle and Steve sent me after I drooled over the pasta on their blog. I want to show you how to debone a Cornish hen the way my former neighbor did, stuffing it with fresh local ingredients without compromising the integrity of its shape. This doesn’t rival Ken and Jody’s breakdown of a rabbit this week. I have my own twist on Cynthia’s horchata after spending all this time in Mexico and having an inspired version in Spain. I’ve got a cake coming up to pair with it that uses no flour. Plus, I haven’t quite kicked the Korean phase I’ve been in, especially after getting Roy Choi’s L.A. Son from the library. Expect some bulgolgi tacos with a twist sometime in the near future or a nice cold stew. It’s so great to have the excitement and time to water my New York roots again. Speaking of which, the New York Botanical Garden is indeed recreating Frida Kahlo’s garden from the Casa Azul and importing some of her paintings too. I cannot wait to see it. The art and landscape of Mexico is truly unrivaled and it is amazing to feel the vibrations of that kinetic energy in my own city.
Have a great weekend everyone! Happy Spring and buen provecho!
MEXICAN STREET CORN ON THE COB (ELOTE)
- 4 ears of corn
- 1/4 cup melted butter
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 tsp cumin
- 4 wedges lime
- 1/2 cup grated cotija cheese
- sprinkle of chipotle pepper
- salt to taste
Preheat an outdoor grill for medium-high heat.
Grill corn until hot and lightly charred all over, 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the temperature of the grill. Combine mayonnaise, cumin, and the juice of half a lime. Roll the ears in melted butter, then spread evenly with mayonnaise combo. Sprinkle with cotija cheese and hot pepper serve with a lime wedge. Add salt to taste.
If you are cooking the corn indoors, like I’m often forced to do, pre-heat the oven to 400ºF. Wrap each shucked cob tightly in tin foil. Cook for 20 minutes. Unwrap and roll corn in mayonnaise mixture and then sprinkle the cheese and pepper on top. Add salt as needed.
You could also boil the corn for about 5 minutes or until you can just smell it. You miss out on the char this way though. Then add all of the ingredients. Either way it’s delicious.
I’ve also had it with the kernels removed from the cob in glass cup covered with the mayo mixture and spices. Eat with a fork. Buen provecho!