One of our favorite restauraunts while I was training in NYC was a tiny cafe in SOHO called Cafe Habana. Based on the original restaurant in Mexico City, this cafe specializes in home-style Latin food with unique Cuban and Central Mexican accents.
They had great dishes and Cuban sandwiches, but were renown for their Cuban/Mexican grilled corn. Perfectly grilled and slathered with mayonnaise then sprinkled with cayenne chili powder, grated cotijo cheese, and finished with fresh squeezed lime. It was like heaven biting into this corn for the first time…a wonderful mix of smoky sweet, rich, spicy, and tangy flavors exploding in your mouth.
Now on the west coast, we can’t wait till corn season to make our recreation of this dish. Traditionally Vietnamese style grilled corn is topped with sweet scallion oil which is also delicious, but when we saw sweet white corn on sale for 3 for 99 cents, we had to get it for the mothers day barbecue and make this NYC favorite. Personally, we love the original, but fearing some weight issues, we offer a mayonnaise substitute with simple garlic butter (who knows if this is an improvement?!) You can also use light mayonnaise if you like.
Cuban/Mexican Grilled Corn
- Grated cotija cheese (can be found easily here in Southern California. If you can’t find it, substitute with grated Queso Fresco or Italian parmesan or Greek feta)
- Ground Cayenne chili powder
- Lime wedges
There are many methods of grilling corn and you may already have favorite technique. I like to peel of the entire husk and place it on the grill. By keeping the husks on, you’re essentially steaming them. However, if I’m strapped for time, I wrap each corn in saran wrap and microwave about 2-3 minutes then place it on the grill. I like to skewer my corns with chopsticks
Start by brushing on the mayonnaise. Sprinkle desired amounts of cotija cheese and cayenne chili powder. Finish with squeeze of lime.
For a slightly different variation or substitution for the mayonaise, try Garlic/Jalapeno butter:
- 1 stick of unsalted butter
- 2 of cloves peeled garlic
- 1 jalapeno deseeded
Let butter sit out of the fridge about an 1 hr. to soften. Put ingredients in food processor and mix garlic until finely minced and well distributed.