Elotes is a Chicago neighborhood tradition. You won’t find them downtown or in the suburbs – this is street food. Elotes is typically boiled corn (roasted if you are lucky) squirted with Parkay or mayo, topped with cotija cheese, a bit of cayenne and sometimes lime juice. The corn frequently comes piping hot from a cooler, and you can get it cut off the cob into a styrofoam cup. This is the Chicago equivalent of a dirty water dog, straight from the food cart filled with chicharones (fried wheel-shaped wheat dough) and paletas (fresh fruit popsicles, sometimes with milk). The elotes carts are always in the same place, consistent and a sure thing during the summer. But it is -5° outside today and the man with the elotes cart isn’t on the corner honking his horn. But I still have a taste for that salty, sweet, creamy and spicy corn. This slightly less authentic version is delicious year round and only takes minutes to prepare. Oh, and I forgot to mention that it takes less than 10 minutes to throw together!
Some years I am very ambitious and freeze fresh summer corn. 2014 was not one of those years. Luckily, there are good frozen corn options available. Bonus points if you can find fire roasted frozen corn. Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods both have tasty versions available. This is the perfect side dish for fajitas or tacos, although I would happily eats cups of it as a snack.
This is a fully customizable dish, just the way it would be if you got it on the corner near my house. You wouldn’t see crema if you got this from a street vendor. Instead, it would be served with Parkay (why is it always Parkay??) or mayo. This version is very light on the crema and cotija cheese, but you may want to add more. Not familiar with crema and cotija? Crema is the Mexican version of sour cream – thinner, a little sweeter and delicious. Cotija cheese has a saltiness and texture similar to grated parmesan. Both ingredients can be substituted for their American counterparts. Don’t like the heat? Substitute paprika for the same hit of color. I like using Mexican crema because it is a little thinner than sour cream, but sour cream works just fine.
A note on authenticity: My sister recently married into a Mexican family that always serves elotes at bbqs. I have always seen their corn served on the cob and slathered in mayo instead of margarine. My sister (and one of my C.O. editors) informed me that crema in elotes is horrifying, but I think it suits frozen corn better. I had not expected this to be such a controversial topic – is this a North Side v South Side debate? I don’t know, I just want you to eat some delicous corn.
|Elotes – Street Style Corn in a Cup in Under 10 Minutes|| |
- 1 lb frozen corn, defrosted
- ½ tablespoon canola oil
- 2 tablespoons crema
- 2 tablespoons cotija cheese
- Sprinkle of cayenne pepper
- Cilantro for garnish
- Lime for garnish
- Heat oil in a large pan.
- Sauté corn in oil until it starts to make a crackling noise, just a few minutes.
- Turn off heat.
- Mix in crema, stir and heat until thoroughly mixed and hot.
- Serve with a sprinkle of cayenne and cilantro and a squirt of lime juice.