“Try this recipe once, and you’ll understand why we call the Mexican elote one of the best ways to serve corn, hands down.” —Serious Eats
Mexican street corn. Elote. You know it. You’ve bought it from a taco truck or casual restaurant. You’ve likely made it at home. You know it originated in Mexico City, then blew up in the US maybe ten or so years ago when Food Network “introduced” it and every white suburban food blogger posted the recipe. Possibly questionable quasi-cultural appropriation aside, you also know it’s unbelievably delicious.
What I can’t figure out is who exactly decided it would be okay to strip the kernels from the cob, toss or layer it with the mayo and the cheese and everything else, and put it in a cup. Because I think we all agree, that person deserves a statue in their honor. Corn on the cob smeared with mayonnaise and dredged in hard cheese crumbles simply cannot be eaten politely. You order it from a taco truck and spend the rest of the day wandering around with corn in your teeth and cheesy mayo on your shirt. Not that this stops anyone. Nor should it. It’s just a fact of life: when it comes to Mexican street corn, the price of sublimity is every last shred of dignity. However… if you make the dish into esquites, sometimes called elote en vaso, those problems are magically solved.
Esquites, also known in American lingo as Mexican street corn salad, is likely already familiar to you as well. But this version that includes smoked trout, is maybe not? If you’re thinking the trout sounds weird, or at least unnecessary, I hope you’ll stick around just long enough to allow me to convince you you’re wrong.
If it sounds like a Very Serious Chef who owns a Very Expensive Restaurant came up with this idea to upcharge street food, it’s because it is. If that makes you roll your eyes, I sympathize. Jose Garces, the Iron Chef of Philly fine dining fame, is our guilty party. But before we bag on him too hard, what if I told you adding smoked trout to esquites is downright delicious? What if I told you that adding the smoked trout turns a side dish into a meal? Should we be doing this more often?
Obviously, I maintain we should. It’s just one of those flavor and texture combinations that sounds odd until you try it. Then you do try it, however reluctantly, and your resulting eyebrow raise falls somewhere in between Total Epiphany and Hey, That’s Actually Pretty Good! Traditional esquites is already a complex symphony hitting notes of sweet, spicy, creamy, and salty – maybe it shouldn’t surprise us too much that smokey tones blend in harmoniously. See what you think!
Esquites with Smoked Trout
- 4 cobs of corn
- 1 chipotle in adobo
- 1 tsp lime juice
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- Kosher salt, to taste
- ½ lb. smoked trout, skin removed and flaked
- About ½ cup Cotija cheese, crumbled
- Ancho chile powder, for sprinkling
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Cut the kernels off the cobs (I do this by inverting a small bowl inside a large mixing bowl, then standing a cob on its flat end atop the small bowl; use a sharp knife to cut down the sides of the corn, and all the kernels fall into a bowl instead of your floor). Bring water to boil in a medium saucepan. Add the corn and cook about 5 minutes, until tender. Drain and let cool until just warm, or to room temperature.
- Meanwhile, add the chipotle, lime juice, and mayonnaise to a small food processor and puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt.
- Add the mayonnaise to a large mixing bowl and then add the cooked, drained, cooled corn kernels. Stir to combine.
- To serve, I used four small cups, but two larger bowls will work fine. Layer corn, then smoked trout, then cheese, then a dash of chile powder. I got two layers of each in the small cups. You may not use all the trout (or you might!). Squeeze lime wedges over all and eat.