Cultivated and still grown widely in the Americas, corn has its origins in a wild grass of Mexico that encased its kernels in a hard shell. Luckily it is easier to access the kernels of modern corn, which we can bite right off the cob. When it comes to the Mexican street food known as elotes, it might also be messier. Vendors top grilled corn with a creamy sauce, cheese, and chile powder, creating a meal unto itself. This version replaces the traditional mayonnaise with a slather of chile butter. Serve it on the cob (elotes) or off the cob (esquites).
4 ears of corn
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon ancho chile powder
½ teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon chipotle chile powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
There are a variety of ways to grill corn. Since I like nutty, charred flavor on as many kernels as possible, I remove the husks before grilling. You can cook the ears directly on a hot grill and rotate every 5 minutes or so until tender. Alternately, as I often do, cook them in boiling water for about 5 minutes, pat dry, lightly brush with olive oil, and then place on a hot skillet, rotating until evenly charred.
For the chile butter, whisk together the softened butter, chile powders, paprika, and garlic powder.
When the corn is ready, slather it with chile butter and top with crumbled cotija cheese. Squeeze a lime wedge over each piece or serve on the side.