Over the winter, Alan and I spent a couple weeks in Chile (which you can read about here and here), and I spent most of the plane ride over trying to memorize Spanish irregular verbs and my key phrases. I knew that we were going to have a couple hours of layover time between our arrival in Santiago and our flight down to Patagonia, and I wanted us to be able to go into town for lunch. Despite my efforts to force my new linguistic knowledge onto Alan (“Did you know the Spanish word for ‘delicious’ is rico?” I asked emphatically — and more than once), he remained far more interested in the sights we were going to see.
It wasn’t long before we settled into a nice little lunch joint, and before Alan could open his mouth to say anything to the server, I hissed: “I’ve GOT this” and ordered us two waters sin gas, a starter, and a couple huge salads. The food was tasty, sure, but what could be more satisfying than my new-found bilingualism?
But then the server returned and said something so quickly I couldn’t make head or tails of it. It seemed like the right time for him to ask us how our meal had been, so with a huge grin, I belted out “Rico!” There was a very long pause. Very, very long. And then the server gave an awkward nod, collected our plates, and hustled off to grab the bill — at which point, we realized that he’d actually asked something along the lines of “May I get you anything else?”
Alan had a very good laugh, indeed.
All this to say, though this salad is insanely rico, I have absolutely no claim to it’s authenticity/accuracy. Esquites is a Mexican corn salad of sorts, where the corn’s been charred and is slathered in mayonnaise, cotija cheese, and chili pepper. Couldn’t find cotija anywhere, so I used sheep feta instead, and I threw in some fresh-grated garlic, some chives from the garden, and a mess of cilantro.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that this instantly became my favourite summer dish. The corn is sweet and slightly caramelized from the charred edges, salty from the feta, loaded with garlic mayo and lime juice, and cooled down from the fresh herbs. It’s hyperbolically good. I was alone in the kitchen when I snacked on the first bite, and actually said out loud to myself: “Holy shit, this is amazing!”
Which is idiotic — but at least there were no Chilean waiters to bear witness.
Esquites (Mexican Corn Salad)
- 2 Tbs canola oil
- 6 ears of corn
- pinch of salt
- 2 Tbs mayonnaise
- 75g (~1/3 cup) feta, crumbled
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced chives or green onions
- 1 large handful cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1 pickled or fresh jalapeño pepper, seeded and stemmed, minced
- 1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lime
- 1 large clove of garlic
- Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste
- Set your oven to broil, line a sheet pan with foil, and shuck your corn. Cut the kernels onto your baking sheet, and toss with the oil. Broil the corn until there is visible charring in spots (roughly 6-8 minutes for me, but can take as little as 3-5 minutes depending on the oven. If you see or hear a few kernels jump around in the pan, the corn is done.) Remove from oven, sprinkle with the pinch of salt, and transfer to a large bowl.
- In the same bowl, add the mayonnaise, roughly half the feta (reserving the rest for garnish), the chives, the cilantro, the jalapeño, and the tablespoon of fresh lime juice. Use a garlic press or microplane grater to mince the garlic straight in. Toss everything gently to combine. Taste, and add salt/pepper/lime juice accordingly.
- Serve immediately, topping with the remaining crumbled feta and a sprinkling of chili powder.