25 May, 2012

May Potluck with Rick Bayless' I Heart Cooking Clubs

Rick Bayless' Grilled Corn with a Twist
There is nothing better than Corn on the Cob in the summer for a BBQ or grill... So I thought until I tried Rick Bayless' recipe for Grilled Corn with a Twist it was a major hit and I received a lot of requests for the recipe! It took corn to a whole new level and the little packages are a major step up in style from corn in your teeth and on your face from Corn on the Cob.  This tasty corn side dish started a conversation with my Mexican husband about Esquites. He remembered having Esquites as a kid after church on Sundays.  He described this steaming cup of corn that made me drool all over the table.  For those of you unfamiliar with this street cart treat; Esquites is kernels of corn boiled in a flavorful broth, served up broth and all with a smear of mayonnaise, a squeeze of lime and a sprinkle of chili and cheese.  It is so simple yet extremely flavorful all at the same time.  After our conversation I excitedly attempted to make Esquites adapting Rick's recipe with what my husband had described to me...and with out knowing any better dumped out all of the rich flavorful broth.  My husband just lowered his head and my suegra had a good laugh at my expense.  I salvaged the dish by tying it up in neat little packages like Rick's receipe and it was a hit with my gringo family all over again.  Attempt two began in boiling the corn ON the cob and resulted in chewy inedible kernels.  I needed to try the real thing before making a third attempt.

While traveling around Mexico we mostly dined on street food.  It was everywhere, it was delicious and we found ourselves seeking out specific items in different regions of the country.  Esquites became my Nemesis  during our travels because I would only ever find a cart when we had just finished eating somewhere and I could not fit another bite. It was on the top of my list of "dishes to try" and I could never find a cart when I wanted one.  Boris' niece is a self proclaimed aficionado of Esquites and recommended a cart to me while we were in Mexico City...the problem, it was on the opposite end of the city...so we never got to go.  Finally in Puebla, Puebla we were on the hunt for lunch, scouting the carts and fonditas in the area and there it was...an Esquites Cart with its beautiful shining pot of gold- flavorful kernels!  I ran up to the cart no longer caring about lunch and leaving my poor husband in my dust.  I was already diving into my little cup of creamy, spicy, citrusy goodness when Boris caught up with me, "you want one?"  I mumbled mouth full and smiling.  "No just a bite of yours," he replied as I glared at him over the top of my cup like a wild dog guarding its kill.  He ordered his own corn on the cob smothered in mayonnaise and dusted with chili powder and cotija....SMART MAN!

Look at that smile!  At last Esquites we meet!
The problem with trying to make Esquites in the States is the secret ingredient: Epazote.  It is a pungent, earthy herb that imparts lots of flavor to the corn broth, and it is what makes the dish!  Apparently it can be located on the East Coast but being a California girl I could never find it...which I thought was odd being that we have a huge Mexican population in California and you can typically find many herbs and spices at least dried and imported in a Mexican store.  One item that you can find is Avocado leaves, I would recommend using that if you cannot find Epazote.

Street Cart Esquites- Serves 6

For Corn:
6 Corn on the Cob
Big Pinch of Epazote (chopped) or 1 Avocado Leaf (whole)

For Garnish:
Cotija Cheese
Chili Pequin

Clean the corn and cut the kernels from the cob.  Set the kernels aside for now.  Place the cobs and epazote in a pot of water and cover with 2-3 liters of water.  Let simmer for 1-2 hours until the broth has reduced and is richly flavored by the cobs.

Remove the cobs from the water (and avocado leaf if you used that) leaving the epazote and add the kernels to the pot.  Let simmer for at least another hour until the kernels are flavorful and tender.

To serve; ladle the corn and broth into a cup.  Add a dollop of Mayonnaise, squeeze half a lime over the top and dust with Cotija Cheese and Chili Pequin or your favorite chili powder (depending on how spicy you want your corn).  Serve with a spoon.

*** Check out the other tasty treats at I Heart Cooking Clubs ***

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