[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt]
Smoky, sweet, spicy, and tangy, esquites are the off-the-cob version of elotes—grilled Mexican street corn slathered with creamy, cheesy, lime-scented, chili-flecked sauce. In this version, we char the corn on the stovetop, though a trip to the grill wouldn’t hurt.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)
- Kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 ounces feta or cotija cheese, finely crumbled
- 1/2 cup finely sliced scallion greens
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped
- 1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced on a microplane grater (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)
- 1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lime
- Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste
Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet or wok over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels, season to taste with salt, toss once or twice, and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, about 2 minutes longer. Continue tossing and charring until well charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add mayonnaise, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeño, garlic, lime juice, and chili powder and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more chili powder to taste. Serve immediately.
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