Monday, January 27, 2014

Chilled Mexican Corn Salad

The Background

I have been looking for a side dish that will pair well with Tex-Mex, Southwestern and Southern dishes.  The catering jobs that we take on typically involve either barbeque or tacos.  This side dish pairs well with both and it is equally tasty served warm or cold.  If served with barbeque, the corn salad gives a great alternative to the typical potato salad or coleslaw. 

If you have ever been to a Mexican festival or celebration, you may have stumbled on a booth or food truck selling grilled corn on the cob.  The corn is usually nicely charred, lathered in a creamy, buttery combination of cheese and chili spices, and finished with a squeeze of lime.  The sweet smell of grilled corn with lime and chiles creates an aroma that will be forever locked in your mind.  You won't be able to think about that festival without remembering that aroma, and anytime you pass a vendor selling grilled corn, your ears will immediately perk and your head will swivel to find the source!

We have tried to recreate that experience in a bowl.  I love to serve this dish as a cold side.  The sweet corn and creaminess cools down the palate perfectly after something spicy.  And the bright, fresh citrus keeps the flavors light.  It's a new favorite of mine, and I get great comments when we serve it at our events.


The Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter
3 cups corn (about 4 ears, fresh OR 2 cans)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, grated (or approximately 1 teaspoon of minced garlic)
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 lime, juice
2 tablespoons Cotija cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon chili powder to taste
2 teaspoons onion salt


Making It Work

  1. Melt the butter in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  A cast iron skillet works great, if you have one.
  2. Add the corn, toss it quickly to coat as much of the corn with the butter as you can.  Once the corn is coated in butter, leave it alone to char, about 6-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, garlic, lime juice, onion salt, and chili powder to make a smooth dressing.
  4. Mix the corn into the dressing, until the corn is well coated.  Once the corn and dressing are mixed, stir in the chopped cilantro and Cotija cheese.
  5. To serve, garnish with some hand-torn cilantro, and an additional sprinkle of cheese and chili powder.  This is a great dish to make a day ahead or the morning of the event.  The flavors will deepen as it chills in the refrigerator for a few hours. 

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