Smoked, sweet, spicy and spicy, Esquites are the off-the-cob Version of Elotes-Mexican street corn grilled on the cob, brushed with creamy sauce, cheese and chili flavored with lime.

Elotes are a staple on my barbecue on the balcony in the summer. It’s about as simple and inexpensive as you can imagine, and there’s nothing — really nothing — that gets ripped off and eaten as quickly as a griddle. I usually expect to do at least an ear and a half per person.

To speed things up, I keep a large bowl with the sauce mixture on hand — it’s garlic mayonnaise, crumbled Cotija cheese (Feta or Romano works well too), chopped cilantro, lime juice and a pinch of chili powder. Once my corn comes off the grill, all hot and charred, it is soaked in the Sauce, then passed on to a waiting mouth. The first bite of hot, charred corn, when the Cheese Sauce is inevitably smeared on your cheeks, just tastes like summer to me. Delicious and fatty summer.

But there are times when a plus…a restrained approach must be adopted. For example, when it comes to primitive and suitable aunts or new relationships. On these occasions, I opt for Esquites, the spoon-ready Version Of Elotes.

Instead of coating the corn kernels with Sauce, cut the kernels after cooking and mix them with the Sauce in a kind of hot salad so decorative that it can be eaten with impunity in mixed company.

Personally, I tend to make Esquites when I don’t want to heat up the grill, because to be honest, it’s just as delicious and easy to prepare inside as it is outside. The key to cooking Esquites inside is to remove the corn kernels from the cob before cooking them. I cook the seeds in a hot, steamy Wok (you can use a regular skillet, although that’s a bit messier) and let them sit in place until the sugar caramelizes and develops a deep dark char before discarding and charring them again.

If done correctly, a few grains should pop and burst, just like popcorn. I sometimes had cores jumping through the apartment. A watchful eye and a splash screen will protect you from any corn mortar fire.

Once the corn has charred, I throw it in with the rest of the ingredients while it is still hot. The salad can be served immediately, but it is just as good at room temperature, which makes it an ideal picnic dish.

Direction

Heat the oil in a large non-stick frying pan or wok over high heat until it shimmers. Add the corn kernels, salt to taste, stir once or twice and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Combine the corn, stir and repeat until charred on the second side, about 2 more minutes. Continue mixing and charring until the corn is well charred all over, about 10 minutes in total. Transfer to a large bowl.

Add the cheese, green onions, cilantro, Jalapeño, garlic, Mayonnaise, lime juice and chili powder and mix. Taste and season with salt and more chili powder. Serve immediately.

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