Grilled corn on the cob is good, but smothered in a creamy mayonnaise concoction and sprinkled with spicy chili pepper, salty Cotija cheese, and a squirt of lime, it’s amazing. Walking by Cafe Habana in the summertime, it’s hard not to stop in for some elote — on the menu as Grilled Corn Mexican Style ($1.95 from the takeout section next door to the restaurant) — especially when you see the hordes of pretty people outside licking their lips as they gnaw on their orders of corn. A while back, as I sat on the wooden bench in front of Cafe Habana chowing down on my elote, Heather Graham appeared out of nowhere and proceeded to nonchalantly eat her order of corn right in front of me. This corn is Hollywood endorsed!
I haven’t had the elote at Pinche Taqueria yet, but compared to La Esquina, I prefer Cafe Habana’s corn because they grill the corn the perfect amount so it’s sweetly charred but not too dried out. La Esquina’s corn leans towards the latter.
If you don’t live in New York, or want to pig out on elote without breaking the bank, it’s quite easy to make elote at home in the oven or on a grill. I’ve had successful results trying both methods. Below is an adapted recipe from one of the co-owners of Cafe Habana, Richard Ampudia. Just plan to double the recipe if it’s for more than two people. I know I can eat a whole lot of corn, especially Mexican-style corn. And perhaps if you make enough, Heather will stop by for a bite. You never know.
Elote (Mexican Grilled Corn)
Adapted from Richard Ampudia’s recipe for Chile-Spiked Grilled Corn Rolled in Cotija Cheese in Food & Wine
6 ears of corn, shucked
1/4 cup mayonnaise (I use homemade mayonnaise minus the mustard. Also, little tip, don’t go crazy if the mayonnaise breaks. Add the sour cream to the broken mayo, and your mayonnaise will be magically fixed.)
1/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup freshly grated Cotija (about 2 ounces)
2 teaspoons chile piquín (I use cayenne pepper because I always have it around, it works nicely.)
Lime wedges, for serving
1. Light a charcoal grill or preheat the oven to 500°. In a large pot of boiling water, cook the corn until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Drain well. If you want to make your life easier, you can also microwave the corn instead of boiling. I wash and then saran wrap the corn, 3 at a time, and nuke for about 2 minutes.
2. Grill the corn, turning frequently, until well-browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Alternatively, roast the corn on a baking sheet for 10 to 15 minutes, turning the ears occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise with the sour cream.
4. Attach corn holders to each ear of corn, or press a bamboo skewer through the centers. Generously brush the mayonnaise mixture all over the ears and sprinkle with the cheese and chile piquín/cayenne pepper. Serve right away, with lime wedges.
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