I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love the flavors of Mexican Street Corn. Buttery grilled corn-on-the-cob, mayo, salty Mexican cheese, fresh lime, garlic and powdered chile spice. It’s one of my favorite summer indulgences and a few years ago, I created a grilled corn “salad” side-dish with all those flavors plus some smoky bacon. It is indulgent and rich and it goes without saying that it is a crowd-pleaser.
This weekend, I am going to a potluck Cinco de Mayo party and my Mexican Street Corn Salad came to mind. I thought that it would be a great dish to bring because it is good served cold or at room temperature and can be made in advance. I quickly realized it wouldn’t work because it’s far from fresh corn season and my recipe called for grilling whole corn and taking the kernels off the cob after they were charred and grilled.
But I couldn’t stop the craving it, so I looked in the frozen food aisle of my local Whole Foods and found their Fire-Roasted Corn. I mentioned this to my food friend Anthony Underwood, and he told me that when he lived in New York City, he used it for any dish that called for grilled corn. That sold me and I bought the frozen corn.
The frozen corn is terrific. Even better, eliminating the need to grill fresh corn makes this recipe accessible regardless of the time of year. It also makes this recipe much easier and quicker to make. All you need to do is sauté the frozen fire-roasted corn in butter to thaw, season and heat it up and toss with a creamy “dressing” made of mayo, fresh cilantro, lime zest and lime juice, garlic, chile powder and cheese. I use chipotle chile powder because I love the smoky heat and it pairs well with the crisp smoked bacon that I add to up the flavor ante. You could use any chili powder or cayenne if you aren’t a fan of chipotle.
You also don’t have to include the bacon but once you try it with bacon, it’s hard not to add it to the “salad.” Salad in this instance is a loose term meaning you can eat it with a fork, like lobster salad or macaroni salad—the fact that corn is a vegetable is incidental.
Mexican Street Corn Salad
This dish has all the flavors of your favorite Mexican Street Corn without the need to grill whole ears of corn. Using frozen fire-roasted corn makes it quick and easy and available all year long. It is a signature side dish and can also be served with chips as a very satisfying dip.
Makes about 4 cups
1 16-ounce bag of frozen Fire-Roasted Corn such as 365 Organic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 overflowing cup Hellmann’s mayonnaise
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
Zest of a lime
Juice of 1 lime, about 2 tablespoons
2 garlic cloves, grated with a microplane
½ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
Maldon sea salt to taste
1/4 cup grated cotija
½ cup grated Asiago or the 3-cheese blend of Pecorino-Romano, Parmesan and Asiago cheese, plus a little more for garnishing
Freshly ground pepper
1 lime, cut into small wedges for serving, optional
1 sprig of fresh cilantro for serving
6 slices of thick-cut applewood smoked bacon, fried crisp and chopped
1. Melt butter in a heavy-duty Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. When butter is lightly browned, add frozen corn and stir well until coated, thawed and hot all the way through.
2. Meanwhile, stir the mayo, cilantro, zest, lime juice, garlic, chile powder, and a pinch of salt together until uniform. Stir in the cheeses and half of the bacon, reserving a little for garnish and set “dressing” aside.
3. Toss the buttered corn kernels with the dressing and stir to combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.
4. Place in a bowl and garnish with a little of the grated cheese, the sprig of cilantro and a sprinkle of the chopped bacon.
5. Refrigerate and serve cold or at room temperature as a side dish or as a dip with chips.