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Four-star kernels: Mexican street corn

Grilling corn gives it an irresistible smokiness - just make sure you leave the foil in the drawer

 

Text Susan Jung / Photography Jonathan Wong / Styling Nellie Ming Lee

 

I love corn on the cob. My favourite way of cooking it is to grill it, which gives it a nice smoky flavour that balances the corn's sweetness. Whatever you do, though, do not wrap the ears of corn in aluminium foil before grilling; otherwise you might as well steam or boil them, because the foil prevents the corn from charring or acquiring any smokiness.

 

Mexican street corn (pictured)
This dish is being sold at a lot of places in town, including Heirloom in Sheung Wan (where it's served on the cob) and Socialito in Central (which serves it off the cob). For casual dining, I prefer the former. It's a crowd-pleaser and very easy to make. I haven't been able to find cotija cheese in Hong Kong, so I substitute another dry, crumbly cheese such as ricotta salata, manchego or feta. It's not quite the same but it's still delicious.

Use corn that has the husks on.

 

6 ears of fresh corn
80 grams of ricotta salata, manchego or feta
A few sprigs of fresh coriander
60 grams Hellmann's mayonnaise
60 grams sour cream
15ml fresh lime juice
Chilli powder, as needed
Lime wedges, for squeezing

 

Pull back the husks from the ears of corn, leaving them intact at the stem. Remove all the corn silks. Rinse the corn under running water, then pull the husks back over the ears to cover them. Put the corn ears in a bowl of water and leave to soak for about 15 minutes.

Finely crumble the cheese and set it aside. Finely chop the coriander and mix it with the mayonnaise, sour cream, lime juice and a pinch of chilli powder.

Cook the corn over hot coals in a covered barbecue. Grill the ears for about 15 minutes, turning them frequently so they cook evenly. Occasionally add a splash of water to the hot coals, to create steam, then close the lid. When the corn is done, remove the ears from the grill and carefully pull back the husks (take care, because everything will be hot). Tie the husks with strings (you'll use them as "handles" later). The corn kernels should be charred slightly. If needed, lay the ears on the grill and cook until they are lightly charred in spots.

Lay the ears of corn on a serving platter and sprinkle with the crumbled cheese. Dust very lightly with chilli powder then drizzle the mayonnaise/sour cream mixture on top. Serve with lime wedges, for squeezing.

 

Grilled fish with avocado and grilled corn salsa
For this dish, cook the corn when you initially start the grill, when the coals are hottest. When the heat has died down slightly, cook the fish. Using a fish grill pan - a latched, ribbed cage that holds the fish securely - makes turning it much easier.

 

1 whole firm-fleshed white fish, about 1kg
Cooking oil, for brushing
30ml extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 spring onions
A small handful of fresh coriander sprigs
1-2 limes
Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

For the avocado and corn salsa:
3 ears of fresh corn
100 grams small oval or pear-shaped tomatoes
1 garlic clove, minced
1-2 shallots, finely chopped
1 red bird's-eye chilli, or more to taste
A few sprigs of fresh coriander
About 20ml fresh lime juice
30ml extra-virgin olive oil
1 ripe avocado

 

Prepare the corn as in the first recipe, removing the silks, pulling the husks back over the ears and soaking them in water. Grill until done over hot coals, then carefully remove and discard the husks. If needed, char the corn slightly by putting the ears on the rack over the coals. Cool the corn. Grill the spring onions until lightly charred.

Brush the fish grill pan with oil. Cut two or three slashes on each side of the fish, all the way down to the bone. Rub the fish inside and out with 30ml of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Slice the limes about 5mm thick and remove the seeds. Lay the lime slices in the cavity of the fish and add the grilled spring onions and coriander sprigs. Put the fish in the grill pan and latch it. Cook the fish in the covered grill, putting it over indirect heat. Occasionally add a splash of water to the coals before closing the lid. The fish takes about 10 minutes for each 2.5cm thickness of fish, measured at its thickest point. Turn the fish over halfway through cooking.

Make the salsa while the fish is cooking. Use a sharp knife to cut the kernels from the corn cobs. Dice the tomatoes and roughly chop the fresh coriander. Mix the corn and tomatoes with the garlic, shallot, chilli, coriander, lime juice, olive oil and salt to taste. Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. Carefully cut the avocado flesh into 1cm squares, then use a large spoon to scoop the flesh from the shell. Gently mix it into the salsa. Spoon half the salsa over the fish, then serve the rest of it in a bowl.

 

 

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