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America’s Test Kitchen Mexican-Style Corn Salad

America’s Test Kitchen Mexican-Style Corn Salad

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Our friends at America’s Test Kitchen share a recipe for a flavorful esquites, a Mexican-Style Corn Salad.

There’s nothing like the sweet, nutty flavor of charred corn right off the grill, but we wanted a simpler route to enjoying Mexican street corn (elote) that didn’t require firing up the grill, and we wanted it in salad form (esquites) so it wouldn’t be messy to eat.

First, we looked to the stovetop and cooked our kernels in a little oil in a ­covered skillet. The kernels that were in contact with the ­skillet’s surface browned and charred, and the lid prevented the kernels from popping out of the hot skillet and trapped steam, which helped cook the corn. To maximize flavorful browning, we cooked the corn in two batches, which allowed more kernels to have contact with the skillet. Once the corn was perfectly toasted and cooked through, we used the already-hot skillet to bloom chili powder and lightly cook minced garlic, which tempered its bite. To tie everything together, we made a simple crema with mayonnaise, sour cream, and lime juice, which we tossed with the charred corn and spices before adding crumbled cotija, chopped cilantro, and sliced scallions. Letting the corn cool before adding the cilantro, scallions, and cheese preserved their fresh flavors.

If desired, substitute plain Greek yogurt for the sour cream. We like serrano chiles here, but you can substitute a jalapeño chile that has been halved lengthwise and sliced into 1/8‑inch-thick half-moons. Adjust the amount of chiles to suit your taste. If cotija cheese is unavailable, substitute feta cheese.

Mexican-Style Corn Salad (Esquites)

Serves 6 to 8:

Ingredients

3 tablespoons lime juice, plus extra for seasoning (2 limes)

3 tablespoons sour cream

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

1–2 serrano chiles, stemmed and cut into 
1/8‑inch-thick rings

3/4 teaspoon table salt, divided

2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil, divided

6 ears corn, kernels cut from cobs, divided

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

4 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled (1 cup)

3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

3 scallions, sliced thin

Instructions

  1. Combine lime juice, sour cream, mayonnaise, serrano(s), and 1/4 teaspoon salt in large bowl. Set aside.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12‑inch nonstick skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add half of corn and spread into even layer. Sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cover and cook, without stirring, until corn touching skillet is charred, about 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and let stand, covered, for 15 seconds, until any popping subsides. Transfer corn to bowl with sour cream mixture. Repeat with 1 tablespoon oil, remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, and remaining corn.
  3. Return now-empty skillet to medium heat and add remaining 1 teaspoon oil, garlic, and chili powder. Cook, ­stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer garlic mixture to bowl with corn mixture and toss to combine. Let cool for at least 15 minutes.
  4. Add cotija, cilantro, and scallions and toss to combine. Season salad with salt and up to 1 tablespoon extra lime juice to taste. Serve.

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