Give me a choice of how I’d like to eat my corn, and esquites will be my answer (this, or elotes, which is just the on-the-cob version of this salad) almost every time. A Mexican dish that is truly greater than the sum of its parts, it’s sure to become the dish that everyone wants you to bring to their backyard barbecue, and you’ll be happy to do so. The secret here is to use ripe, in-season corn and take your time to cook it until some pieces start to char. Make sure to add the remaining ingredients while the corn is still hot for better flavor and texture, and for the love of all things tasty, use a good chile powder. If you can’t find ancho chile powder, Penzey’s carries it and will ship directly to you.
6 ears of corn, kernels removed (save the cobs for a later use)
1/4 cup olive oil
2 fat cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro
4 ounces Cotija, crumbled
3 Tablespoons good-quality mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon ancho chile powder
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, plus more to taste
1. In a large wok or skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the corn and toss a few times, then leave it alone for a couple of minutes. Give the corn a thorough stir- the corn at the bottom should be golden and starting to char in a few spots. Continue cooking like this until all of the corn is deeply golden and much of it is starting to char.
2. Remove the corn from the heat and dump it into a large serving bowl. Add several pinches of salt, then add the garlic, cilantro, cotija, mayonnaise, chile powder, and chile flakes. Stir everything together and taste for salt, adding more if necessary. Squeeze the juice from one lime into the corn and stir, then taste to see if you’d like the juice from the second lime. Serve immediately.