Elote is the Mexican version of corn on the cob, a popular street food. The ear of corn is roasted or boiled in the husk, then husked and served on a stick with condiments.
If the kernels are removed from the corn and served in a bowl, the dish is called esquites. These recipes are also made at home, where corn holders often replace the stick.
Corn on a stick has become popular in the U.S. at state fairs, and as street food in areas as disperse as Chicago and Texas.
Elote is the word for corn in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs (the Spanish word for corn is maíz).
The cooked corn is served with a range of condiments: butter, cotija cheese (and/or feta in the U.S.), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise, sour cream (crema in Mexico) and salt. Popular combinations include chili powder and lime juice in Mexico, butter and cheese in the U.S.
In some areas of Mexico, the cooked kernels are cut into a bowl, topped with the same condiments and eaten with a spoon. ízquitl, toasted corn.)
Make elote at home (photo © I Wash You Dry.
This variation is called esquites (or ezquites) in southern and central Mexico, and troles or trolelotes in the north. (The word esquites comes from the Nahuatl word
Our colleague Hannah Kaminsky created what she calls “corn porn.”
“The simplest elements of a meal,” says Hannah, “those unassuming side dishes that are all too often overshadowed by flashier, more expensive or more complex main dishes, serve up far more nuance than they’re given credit for. A perfect example of this is the humble ear of corn.
“As summer marches on and those golden yellow kernels swell larger, juicier and sweeter underneath the hot sun, truly sumptuous fresh corn is a rare treat despite its ubiquity. A whole world of flavor can be found within those pale green husks, just beyond the tangled forest of corn silk, if only one knows how coax it out.
“Finesse is the key to letting such a pared-down dish shine, accentuating the inherent flavor of is base ingredients without covering them up with a heavy-handed smattering of seasonings. Elote, served up either straight on the cob or sheared off and mixed up in the trolelotes presentation, is worth getting excited about.”
A vegan, Hannah eschews the butter, cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream used to bind the seasonings. Instead, she created the vegan sauce recipe below and serves the corn esquitas-style, as kernels in a bowl.
RECIPE: ELOTE OR ESQUITES WITH CASHEW SAUCE
Don’t want cashew sauce? Load up on the original condiments: butter, cotija cheese (substitute feta or use both), chili powder, lemon or lime juice, mayonnaise and sour cream.
Ingredients For 6-8 Servings
1. SOAK the cashews for 3 hours and thoroughly drain them.
2. MAKE the sauce. Place the cashews, garlic and lime juice in a food processor and pulse to combine. Pause to scrape down the sides of the bowl with a spatula so that the nuts are fairly well broken down. Add the nutritional yeast, agave, paprika, cayenne and salt, pulsing to incorporate.
3. DRIZZLE in the water, allowing the motor to run slowly to blend thoroughly. The sauce should still be a bit coarse in texture, and the small pieces of cashew that remain will emulate the traditional curds of cotija cheese.
4. COOK the corn on a hot grill, or indoors on a large griddle over high heat. Depending on the size of your cooking surface, you may need to work in batches since the corn must make full contact directly with the surface. Lightly brush the corn with oil and grill the corn until lightly charred, turning as needed. This process should take approximately 10 minutes, but let the color of the corn serve as your guide. Set aside to cool.
5. CUT the kernels off the corn cobs and place them in a large bowl. Pour the cashew sauce on top and mix thoroughly. Add the fresh cilantro, tossing to combine. Divide the corn into 6 to 8 cups or bowls and top with a sprinkle of chili powder.
Here’s a fusion food: Mexican elote made with Japanese condiments. For four ears of corn, mix:
1. MIX the butter and miso paste and slather it on the hot corn. Sprinkle each ear with chives and shichimi togarashi. Serve with lime wedges.