by Kate Heyhoe
For me, an open Mexican marketplace at mid-day is almost a religious experience. A walk past the open stalls of freshly picked peppers, tomatoes, epazote, cilantro...past the black-braided women making tortillas by hand, patting the dough into perfect, soft rounds...past the meat vendors, layering sliced spit-roasted pork into warm, freshly baked bolillos with whole pickled jalapeños bulging out each side. I can visualize the scene, but I can never re-experience in full the many senses of being there. For that, I must go back.
One day around sunset, outside the market at San Miguel de Allende, I noticed a woman roasting corn over a grill. Charcoal and wood were deeply immersed in the open half of an oil drum, covered by a metal grating. As the day gave way to night, I could see sparks whipping around the woman's colorful woven shawl. They looked like frenzied fireflies, dancing madly with the streaks of magenta, green, and turquoise threads, then disappearing forever. I crossed the zócalo to her grand display and exchanged a peso for one of her gold and blackly charred wares. When I bit into the ear of elote, I found that she was not just roasting corn, but she had rubbed chili powder and lime juice into each ear. The explosion in my mouth was sensational.
I have tried to recreate her product, but as is often the case with street food in foreign countries, my success has been relative. (For one thing, it was the toughest piece of corn I'd ever had in my life!) Soaking unhusked corn in water (and removing the silks), then rubbing the inside with chili powder and lime juice before grilling over a barbecue is a reasonably close facsimile to the taste she had created. However, in this recipe for Fried Chile Corn, I've adapted the basic idea for stovetop and speed. It still tastes delicious—spicy, crisp and tangy. But the one thing it lacks is the spark of the fireflies, dancing with the woman in the cool night air.
by Kate Heyhoe
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons powdered red chiles
2 teaspoons ground cumin
4 cups corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
3 roasted, peeled Anaheim chiles, diced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 lime, sliced in wedges
Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the powdered red chiles and cumin and let cook for 30 seconds.
Turn the heat to high and stir in the corn, Anaheim chiles and salt. Let these ingredients brown on one side for 2 to 3 minutes, then stir again. Continue cooking for another minute, or until the mixture has a golden, toasted look.
Serve each portion with a squeeze of fresh lime.
NOTE: If using frozen corn, add it directly to the skillet from the freezer. Do not thaw or cook first.
Copyright © 2004, Kate Heyhoe. All rights reserved.
This page created June 2004
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