eat. shop. love. nyc.

Mesoamerican grilled corn on the cob
July 15, 2010, 2:33 pm
Filed under: Cook, Eat | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When I think of grilled corn on the cob, I think of summer and barbecues and I get all warm and fuzzy inside. So it follows that as I wandered the streets of the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, Guatemala, I found myself drawn to the Mayan woman selling corn over a steaming hot grill in the square near La Merced.

The corn shown here is different from the sweet yellow (and white) corn we find in the US. It’s denser, more glutinous; chewier, and not as sweet. It is very similar to corn on the cob that I’ve tried in Korea and other parts of Asia, a varietal that brought memories of night markets flooding back for my mother. Here, it was served simply with a dollop of salt on the side and some lemon.

Every culture has its version of corn on the cob, and my personal favorite to date is the preparation I’ve had at Cafe Habana (SoHo/Brooklyn) and in Mexico City (similar flavor combinations, but with the kernels removed and stewed in a pot with spices). Below is a grilled corn on the cob recipe that fuses these flavors.

Grilled Corn on the Cob (Yields 8 appetizer/side dish servings)


  • 8 ears of corn in husks – I prefer sweet yellow corn, but this is a matter of taste
  • 2-3 limes, quartered into wedges
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1/2 cup grated cotija cheese or queso blanco
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt – If you use cotija, salt to taste at the end as cotija is inherently salty
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Optional – If you like richer flavoring, feel free to add a squirt of Kewpie (or other) mayonnaise. In Mexico City, they added a huge dollop of mayo at the end, along with chopped cilantro. Obviously, sans mayo is healthier and cleaner in terms of flavor, but this is up to you.


  • Peel back the husks of the corn without removing them and remove the silks, then recover the corn with the husks.
  • Soak corn, husks on and silk removed, in large bowl of cold water for 30 minutes.
  • While the corn soaks, prepare garlic butter by combining minced garlic with softened room-temperature butter. Combine cheese, salt, chili powder, paprika, and cayenne pepper on a tray and mix well. Pre-heat the grill to medium or medium-high.
  • Remove corn from water and shake off excess.
  • Peel back the husks and pat corn dry, applying a moderate coat of garlic butter to the kernels, reserving a third of the butter for service.
  • Close up the husks and place the corn on the grill. Close the cover and grill for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Unwrap corn and slather with remaining garlic butter – mayo optional.
  • Roll in cheese and spice mixture and serve hot with lime wedge(s).

Buen provecho!


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