Cornman corn, sorta

Cornman Chicago/Mexican style corn, with oven fries and braised chuck steak marinated in lime, garlic and soy.

So 4th of July happened recently, and that means a lot of corn on the cob for BBQs and picnics. Our local Wally-World had it on sale for a quarter an ear, so even though we were a little broke right around then, we could get some awesome corn on the cob.

But how to serve it?

For that, let me take you back. It was probably close to 20 years ago, and I was at my Aunt Karen’s house in Atlanta. Visiting with me was my cousin Leonor. Leonor is half Honduran and half of the Polish/Italian mix I am on my Mom’s side. She always lived in the city of Chicago proper while when I was up there, I lived in Oak Park, a suburb. Close to the city (At the end of the block, actually), but still a suburb.

We were in my Aunt’s kitchen and I was going to have some corn on the cob.

“Wait, you should have that like the Mexicans make it,” said Leonor.

I already had margarine out, but when Leonor prompted me to get mayonnaise and Parmesan cheese, I was pretty highly suspicious.

“Put the butter on, then the salt and pepper, then the mayonnaise, then the Parmesan.”

“Bullshit!” I thought, or some less eloquent 12-year-old equivalent. “Mayonnaise on corn? Madness!” (I’m gonna hear it for that…Wife hates it when I curse on the blog)

Still, I trusted my cousin and hoped to high heaven she wasn’t just screwing with me. What do you know? The stuff was great! Later on, when I made my own friends on the Northwest side, I encountered the cornman, a guy with a food cart that served corn nearly how Leonor described it.

Give the cornman a dollar, though it’s probably more now, and he reaches into the steamer portion of his cart, comes out with an ear of sweetcorn, shoves it on a skewer and then proceeds to dress it with margarine, mayonesa, cotija cheese, lime, and chili powder. It’s completely and totally amazing.

Of course, if cornman corn flew under my radar in Oak Park, it’s completely wild here in the country, where people probably just think it’s weird, I know Meghan does, but then, she thinks ketchup is a vegetable.

My homemade version, which I made Sunday evening,  uses the Parmesan because good luck finding cotija near here. I used Miracle Whip style “dressing” instead of mayonesa. I know there’s a difference, I’m not stupid, but I am, as I said, broke. This was probably the part about this that worked the least, and it was still pretty damn good. I also added ground cayenne pepper instead of sweet chili powder because I like setting my tongue on fire, and omitted the lime because I forgot. It’s a lot of different flavors that come together in an amazing way.

In the future, I’ll be trying this with real butter, because y’know, it’s already kind of a heart attack on a stick; then salt, fresh ground pepper and a bit of garlic, Duke’s Mayo (“The secret of Southern Chefs” and really great stuff compared to just about anything but homemade), followed by the cotija cheese, then good chili powder possibly spiked with chipoltle or something like that for heat, and finally, that forgotten squirt of lime.

Oh! I nearly forgot…easy way to cook corn for one: chop both ends off the ear but leave it in the husk. Toss it in the microwave for 5 minutes and it steams in the husk. No weird texture, just grab it with an oven mitt and give it a shake. The ear will fall out and will (ideally) leave all of the silk still in the husk. Try it out, I swear I wouldn’t lead you astray.

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