It’s hard to improve on plain, fresh corn on the cob. That said, once you try it this way you may never go back. Taking inspiration from street food vendors in Mexico, this recipe yields corn on the cob that is at once smoky, spicy, salty, and tangy–yet still, somehow magically, leaves room for the sweet taste of the corn to shimmy through.
Most recipes for this style of corn call for mayonnaise or Mexican crema–but in an effort to make it healthier I like to use mashed avocado. Although I confess, I am a pretty devoted lover of mayonnaise. If you are too, use a nice healthy mayo–vegan mayonnaise works well too. Or if feeling adventurous, try this easy-to-make aioli recipe from Alice Waters as a substitute for the avocado or mayo. Traditionally, Mexican cotija cheese is used, but it may be hard to find; you can substitute feta or parmesan, or skip the cheese altogether.
4 ears of corn, not shucked
1/4 cup avocado, mashed until smooth (or mayonnaise)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne (or chili powder)
3/4 cup shredded cotija cheese
Prepare grill. (If you can’t grill outside, see note below.)
Soak corn in husks in cold water 10 minutes. Drain corn and grill on a rack set 5 to 6 inches over glowing coals until husks are charred, about 10 minutes. Shuck corn and grill until kernels are browned in spots, about 10 minutes.
While corn is grilling, in a small bowl whisk together mayonnaise and cayenne. If using avocado, mix it with the cayenne, a pinch of sea salt and a squeeze of lime.
Brush mayonnaise/avocado mixture onto hot corn and sprinkle with cojita.
Serve corn on the cob with lime wedges.
Note: For apartment dwellers or those without a grill, I have a secret. As long as you have very fresh corn and a gas stove top, you can simulate the effect of grilled corn. Husk the corn, turn a burner on high, and roast the corn over the flame like you would a marshmallow over a campfire. (I use tongs to rotate them.) It won’t cook at thoroughly as it will on the grill, but if it’s fresh enough it doesn’t matter. Yum!