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Esquites

I have been forbidden by my family to cook another dish involving limes for the foreseeable future, so enjoy this while you can. I’ve been going a bit overboard. I can admit that. But, before the ban, each and every member of my family expressed great love for this.

My trip to Mexico did not help the lime matter at all. This is a recipe for one of the best things we ate on our Late Night Taco Tour in Mexico City. Two men working a cart were turning out whole ears of corn slathered in mayonnaise, queso fresco and chili powder. And, they were also creating the same thing, essentially, in cups. It is called esquites.  This is the essence of simple food, but it is wonderful. Did I lose you at corn slathered in mayonnaise? Don’t be that way. You love Artichoke and Green Chile dip. That is, I hope, a safe assumption. So why not extend the love to a corn dish. This, by the way, has less mayo than the artichoke concoction.

I use this as a side dish, or a kind of warm salad. It is a snack, essentially. But it would also make a great dip. It is similar to this Corn with Sea Salt and Basil that my friend Tina told me about, and in fact she is the person who told me that if I liked the Corn with Sea Salt and Basil, I really needed to try esquites someday. Well, it is someday…and I love it.

I will give you proportions here as a simple guide, but rest assured that no one was measuring anything on the sidewalk. Cup, hot corn, dollop of mayo and some lime juice, sprinkling of cheese, chili powder, repeat, repeat, repeat. Or put the corn in a big bowl, add mayo and lime juice, mix, add cheese and sprinkle with chili powder.

To be precise, I’m using chili powder with an “I” at the end which is a blend, not with an “E” at the end which is the powder of a single kind of chile pepper. The precise blend I used here is called Tajin Classico, which is a blend of chiles, lime, and salt…and purports to also be gluten free. This is the exact product that was being used at the esquites stand in Mexico City so I bought some while I was there, but it is available in the U.S. too. But, any chili (or chile) seasoning blend will work, provided that you like it. You might mix in a touch of kosher salt for a little more zing. I know that sounds obvious, but have you ever actually tasted your chili powder.

Recipe for Esquites: (4 servings)

Ingredients:

fresh herbs like thyme and oregano (optional)
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
6 whole peppercorns
6 ears corn, shucked and cleaned
⅓ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup lime juice (more to taste)
queso fresco, crumbled
chili powder

Instructions:

1. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Add the fresh herbs, the peppercorns and the salt. Then carefully add the corn to the boiling water. Simmer the corn in the herbed water for 5 minutes. Remove the corn from the boiling water. Retain several cups of the herbed water (with the herbs strained out) if you are not serving the dish immediately, as you can keep the corn warm in the herb infused water until you are ready  to serve it. Just make sure to drain the corn well before mixing in the mayonnaise.

2. Cut the corn from each cob, using a sharp knife and a diagonal downward motion. Place the corn in a bowl. Add the mayonnaise and lime juice and stir to fully incorporate the mayonnaise into the corn. Taste the corn and add more mayonnaise and/or lime juice if needed. Transfer the corn to a serving dish. Top with crumbled queso fresco and sprinkle with chili powder.

Notes:

Why are the herbs optional? They add a dimension to the dish but it is not worth buying $9 worth of little plastic cases of fresh herbs. I have a potager so I run outside and grab a handful of whatever is there…in this case thyme and oregano. But don’t trouble with it if it isn’t easily available. This is street food. It shouldn’t cost an arm and a leg to prepare.

Can you cut the corn off the cob and then sauté it…YES.

Can you add good stuff like jalapenos or green onions…YES.

Can you use feta or cojita cheese…GO FOR IT.

This is the easy stuff. Make yourself happy and have fun.

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8 comments to Esquites

  • Lisa

    And you should also try another Mexican version for esquites: instead of water, use chicken broth. Delicious!

  • Beleigh

    Mmm, mmm, mmm! That sounds AMAZING!

    Beleigh

  • Kelly

    Well, Janice, if you were standing on the street in Mexico City, you would be eating it out of a styrofoam cup with a spoon. It is a stand alone dish this way. It is an inexpensive snack, really. I serve it as a side dish for Mexican foods…again…spoon. And, while it is not technically a dip, I think it would make a great dip. I mentioned it because when I am eating it as a side, I always end up cleaning my plate with a chip or twelve anyway. So try it as a side and if you love it as much as I do…use it in other ways as well.

    As for the reserved water, it is just a good way to keep the corn warm if you are not using it immediately. You can cut the corn off of the cob and put it back in the pot with the herb infused water. Just make sure to drain it well before mixing in the mayo. If you want to see the esquites I ate in Mexico, my last post has a series of photos of the street version in foam cups. I hope you like it.

  • janice

    Tell me, is it a dip? A side dish? Do I scoop it with something crisp (tortilla chip?) or eat it with a fork? It sounds delicious….thanks!
    Oh, and what to do with the reserved cup of water if I’m not serving it right away? Did I miss a step? Thanks again.

  • Susan Burns

    Can’t wait to try this. Sounds wonderful, even as corn season comes to an end here in Northern California. Something else delicious with limes ( sorry family!) is just sliced Persian Cucumbers. Squeeze limes over the slices – eat right away or let sit for hours or overnight – sprinkle with crushed red peppers if you like, or salt or whatever. Makes the cukes zing. Sing?

  • val

    Carla talks about those little cups of corn all the time!I’m so excited to try your version.

  • Rita Heep

    I love, love, love this stuff! However, I have to eat it in moderation…:)Thank you for sharing your wonderfully delicious recipes. One day, my desire is to travel and actually take culinary classes from different regions of the world. Continue enjoying life!

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