It’s tough to improve on a nicely cooked ear of corn, but this might be one way to do it. Here, chef Michael Harr draws on the Central American street food called elote, upping the corn quotient by blending grilled kernels into the sauce.
Make Ahead: You'll have dried chili powder left over; it can be stored in an airtight container for up to 6 months. You'll also have leftover charred-corn mayo, which can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
Where to Buy: Dried guajillo chili peppers and dried chipotle chili peppers are available at Latino markets and at some Whole Foods Markets and Shoppers Food and Pharmacy stores.
Tested size: 4 servings
2 dried guajillo chili peppers (see headnote)
3 dried chipotle chili peppers (see headnote)
7 small ears sweet white or bicolor corn, husked
2 to 3 scallions
Freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup regular or low-fat mayonnaise (do not use nonfat)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons crumbled cotija cheese, for garnish
Cilantro leaves, for garnish
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Arrange the dried guajillo and chipotle peppers on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast for 4 or 5 minutes, until they soften and puff slightly. Cool (they will crisp up), then discard the stems and seeds. Coarsely chop, then reduce to a powder in a spice grinder.
Prepare the grill for direct heat: If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ashen, distribute them evenly over the cooking area.
If using a gas grill, preheat by setting all burners on high and closing the lid for 10 minutes; then turn off one of the burners on a two-burner grill or the two end burners on a three-burner grill and reduce the heat to medium, or 350 degrees.
You should be able to hold your hand about 6 inches above the coals or grate for about 7 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Brush the grill grate.
Lightly salt 3 ears of corn and place them on the grate, along with the scallions (to taste). Cook the scallions for 2 to 3 minutes; cook the corn for 8 to 10 minutes, turning the ears as needed until most kernels are lightly charred. Transfer the scallions and corn to a cutting board to cool.
Lightly season the remaining 4 ears of corn with salt and black pepper and arrange on the grate. Cook in the same fashion as before, turning the ears to promote even, light charring.
Meanwhile, cut away enough kernels of the cooled corn to yield 1 generous cup; if you have any left over, reserve for another use. Chop the scallions into 1-inch pieces. Combine the scallions and corn in a food processor; pulse until chopped and well blended.
Add 2 teaspoons of the combined chili powder along with the mayonnaise, lemon juice and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of the salt (to taste). Puree until fairly smooth, then transfer to a bowl or wide-mouthed squeeze bottle for serving. The charred-corn mayo should be thick (not pourable).
Transfer the grilled ears of corn to a platter. Top each one with the charred-corn mayo, cotija cheese, a sprinkling of the dried chili powder and the cilantro.
From Michael Harr, executive chef at Fish Taco in Cabin John, Md.