I enjoy the science of food. Creating a recipe, discovering its ultimate math, is the most pleasurable part of cooking for me. Usually I enjoy the making more then I enjoy the eating. A day spent cooking feels indulgent and like an act of self-care as opposed to an act of adulting. Sometimes I work on a recipe and when I create that perfect bite I lose interest and never make it again. Sometimes I love it so much I keep it in my recipe pile and make it over and over.
This summer in my spare time I’ve been playing with a recipe for a Roasted Corn Salad. Inspired by Mexican Street Corn memes popular on social media everywhere, I set out in early June to design a recipe that resembled the street delight, but fit into the preferred flavor profiles of the ones I love and the ingredients I have available.
My first try was ok. I started with fresh, but not local corn, so procuring local offerings was the first improvement I felt I needed to make. I used sweet peppers and a jalapeño. As it turned out I didn’t like the jalapeño. I sautéed all of the vegetables in a small amount of olive oil instead of roasting them. The flavor was there, but when the dressing was added the overall feeling, taste and texture was greasy potluck side dish not memorable salad. The first attempt also had shredded spicy Monterey Jack cheese, I cannot lie I was incredibly surprised that this too was more greasy then pleasurable. Funny enough, despite the harsh criticism, it was ok, not horrible and the pure popularity of the concept made me want to try it again.
The second try was sad. I used frozen corn because local still wasn’t available. Nothing worked, yet the birds and squirrels seemed to love it; we can move on without paying more attention to that try, it doesn’t deserve it.
The third attempt was golden. It’s was one of those winning moments that says “this is a keeper”. The first bite truly erased all of the other tries, it was perfect. The secrets to the third version were simple. Fresh, local corn finally came available and using it for this recipe is not negotiable. The difference was worth it; the effort in waiting for it to grow and tediously peeling each cob paid off in the end. No more sautéing, I heated up the BBQ and used no oils of any kind to grill the veg. Instead of jalapeño I opted for poblano pepper mixed with green and red sweet peppers. Garlic and white onion joined the peppers and corn so that all of the ingredients shared a beautiful charred flavor. I opted to only grill half of the corn because I wanted there to be a variety of textures in the dish. Raw fresh corn is so crisp and sweet, the juice it releases equally amazing, I didn’t want that element missing from the final offering. The poblano once roasted had added a nice level of spice, for a spicier version you could use all poblano peppers and skip the sweet ones or add a hotter option like Thai chilli or scotch. I like the poblano because it added some kick without overpowering the other ingredients.
With the first two tries I did not use the food processor and my complaint was the inconsistency of each bite. By pulsing the peppers, onions and garlic in the processor and effectively making them a part of the dressing each bite had equal flavor and enjoyment. The dressing is simple and uncomplicated. If you hand chop your peppers and onions the dressing can be easily whisked together and mixed in. If you’re using a food processor add the dressing ingredients to the bowl, a few more quick pulses and you’ll be ready to mix the salad.
Like any other great salad this one is all about the preparation. The steps to get to the final moment may not be easy, but they will be worth it. Toss the dressing, grilled corn and raw corn together. Make sure the corn is all evenly coated. Top with the crumbled feta, bacon and chives. Chill before serving.
This is a great dish; worthy of any pot luck or Summer BBQ. You can make it a day ahead and still be eating leftovers the day after any event you make it for. This is also a great meal prep item. I would consider mixing the peppers and corn together and keeping the dressing separate, mixing and topping as you go.
This Roasted Corn Salad is definitely a keeper. I’m sure I’ll be making it at least one more time this Summer, while local corn is still plentiful, maybe two, then I’ll file it away for future use in the Summers to come. It’s all about the season, it’s all about the freshness. I’m happy with my ode to Mexican Street Food; my version is a little easier to eat, but just as festive!
Roasted Corn Salad
24 ears of corn peeled
1 poblano pepper
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
2 white onions
3 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1 cup feta cheese
6 slices bacon cooked and crumbled
2 – 3 tbsp chopped fresh chives or scallion
Preheat your grill. Grill 12 ears of the corn, peppers, garlic and onions. Your looking for char/grill marks that will add flavor to the dish.
Once the grilled vegetables are cooled add onions, peeled peppers and garlic to a food processor and pulse until their desired size and consistency. They can all be chopped by hand if you prefer, I like the even mix and size the food processor provides.
The corn from all 24 cobs needs to be removed. There’s lots of tools designed to do this. I find the easiest way to do it is to use a sharp knife and two bowls. Place a smaller bowl upside down so the flat bottom creates a cutting platform and use a larger bowl to catch the corn and “corn milk” your efforts create. Once done carefully flip the smaller bowl over and all of the yumminess will dump into the larger bowl ready for mixing.
Add all of the ingredients listed for the dressing to the food processor, or quickly whisk them together in a bowl.
Mix the corn and dressing together. Make sure all of the corn is evenly coated. Top with feta, bacon and chives.
Chill before serving.