Now that we're entering the height of sweet corn season, you're going to want to keep this salad on repeat in your meal plan rotation and make it your go-to dish for picnics, pool parties, and potlucks. Crisp, sweet kernels are charred on the stovetop, then partnered with a slew of ingredients for a salad that's just the right balance of smoky, spicy, and tangy flavors, and can be paired with everything. Serve it warm, chilled, or at room temperature, it's up to you, and totally delicious in every form.
Consider esquites the off-the-cob version of elote, the popular Mexican street food dish. Elote is grilled sweet corn on the cob that is slathered in a spicy mixture of mayonnaise, crema, and chili powder and then sprinkled with cheese. Esquites takes all the elements of the popular smoky, sweet corn and combines them into a warm, much less messy to eat, salad or side for a crowd.
Unlike elote and some versions of esquites which start by grilling and charring the whole ear of corn, this version begins by removing the kernels from the cob. It makes prep a little easier and faster since you're not working with hot corn. Instead of a grill, the corn gets charred on the stovetop in a cast iron pan, and even though there's no open flame, the kernels still pick up that great carried, smokiness that makes this dish so great. When fresh corn is out of season, you can easily swap in thawed frozen corn, though do know that the kernels in the finished salad will be slightly softer than when using fresh.
- Kelli, August 2017
Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)
2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
4 cups fresh or thawed frozen corn (from about 5 medium ears)
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons crumbled Cotija cheese, plus more for garnish
1 small jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or Mexican crema
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
Heat the oil in a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown, about 15 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Remove the skillet from the heat and allow the corn to cool for a few minutes.
Transfer the corn to a large bowl. Add the cilantro, Cotija, jalapeño, mayonnaise, and chili powder and stir to combine. Top with additional Cotija and serve room temperature.
- Make ahead: The corn can be cooked up to a day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature for about 15 minutes before assembling the salad.
- Storage: Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.