The Season’s Sweet Treat: Summer Corn
James Beard Award semi-finalist Chef Jeff Smedstad shares his favorite corn recipes, the perfect addition for your next summer barbeque. By Celeste Sepessy
For many in the Southwest, summer is synonymous with shucking corn.
“Corn represents summer in so many ways,” Chef Jeff Smedstad says, who remembers detasseling corn with his brother while growing up in suburban Phoenix. “There’s inherent sunshine in a good ear of corn, and that comes out when you’re eating it.”
The ingredient shines year-round in Smedstad’s Elote Café in Sedona, Arizona. Smedstad opened Elote (Spanish for “corn”) in 2007. Ten years later, he’s celebrating a James Beard Award Semi-Finalist nod for 2017 Best Chef: Southwest. Smedstad’s celebrated creations draw on varieties from Camp Verde to Colorado, as “there’s a sense of local identity in corn now,” he says. After all, each type has its own charms.
But before there were heirloom verities spanning the color wheel, there was the main food source for Native Americans. “Corn is the backbone of the Mexican and Southwest kitchen,” he explains. “You can’t imagine having Mexican food without it. There would be no tortillas, no tamales, no elote.”
Luckily, that’s not a reality Elote Café visitors face. Instead, they order more than 100 dishes of elote, a rich Mexican staple with roasted corn from the cob, mayonnaise and cotija, a night.
What could bring to life the flavor of Mexico more than corn roasting and caramelizing over a grill? These flavors would be at home in any backyard barbeque. In Mexico, this would typically be made with starchier corn, but I prefer the flavor of sweet corn — Silver Queen is my favorite. This dish always tastes better in the summer.
- 6 ears corn with the husk intact
- 1 cup mayo
- 1 tablespoon Cholula hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 teaspoon each, salt pepper and sugar
- 1/4 cup chicken stock
- 1/4 cup Cotija cheese ground
- 2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
- pure ground chile to taste
- Over a medium hot grill, roast the corn until the husks are well charred — about 5 minutes — turning them occasionally so as not to completely burn the kernels underneath.
- Set them aside to cool enough to handle, then shuck them and cut the corn off the cob.
- When ready to eat, mix the mayo, hot sauce, lime juice and chicken stock. Add the mixture and the cut corn kernels in a sauté pan to warm.
- Pour the elote in a bowl and garnish with the cheese, cilantro and chile powder. Serve immediately.
Pastel de Elote
A lot of tinkering has gone into this recipe since the first time I tried it on one of my adventures through Veracruz. I recall first tasting this on the beach in Boca del Rio or perhaps it was La Parroquia the famous old coffee shop in Veracruz. I like to serve it with goat milk caramel (cajeta), some homemade vanilla bean ice cream and dried super sweet corn if you can find it.
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1/4 pound room temperature butter
- 6 eggs
- 2 tablespoons corn oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/4 cup half and half
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 3 cups fresh cut corn
- In a mixer or by hand cream together the butter, sugars, corn oil, vanilla, baking powder and salt.
- When well combined, stir in eggs one at a time until completely mixed. Add half and half, buttermilk and flour, and mix until smooth. Lastly, fold in the corn kernels.
- Pour batter into a 10-inch cake pan that has been greased and floured. Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.