Back Yard Cookout Season is Here!

So it’s Memorial Day weekend and, while remembering the brave men and women who have served our country, we are also beginning to gear up for summer. A lot of kids got out of school this past week and we all have a three day weekend so it’s time to celebrate, right? I got invited to two cookouts this weekend and I hate to go anywhere empty handed. Thanks to North Georgia Mama for teaching me right.

We’ve already grilled out a lot this year and I’m slightly ashamed to say that my next door neighbor (Hi, Meredith!) has seen me cook grilled corn a LOT lately. It’s a bit of an obsession for me right now. Seriously I think I’ve made it about five times in the last two weeks So I could NOT take that to her house lest she think I’m a one trick pony. But what to bring? I made a fabulous charred corn (again with the corn already!?) and green chile dip last week but, despite how simple that sounds, it’s kind of a pain and I’m feeling a little lazy today. Maybe a salad instead? Then into my Facebook feed pops Smitten Kitchen with her “Cubed, Hacked Caprese” ( I absolutely love this site and this looked super easy. Since I couldn’t decide whether to take a salad or a dip, I decided to accomplish both!

Smitten Kitchen's Cubed, Hacked Caprese with homemade croutons
Smitten Kitchen’s Cubed, Hacked Caprese with my homemade croutons

My inlaws (The Ps) moved to the Lowcountry a couple of years ago and have absolutely loved it here. Although still getting used to the bugs and the unpredictable weather (which is predictably awful in the afternoons), they’ve totally settled in. It’s been lovely getting to hang out with them every week or two and our Carolina Brown Dog gets to hang with their Rosie at least once a week. They invited us over for another cookout on Memorial Day and a dip in the pool for The Boy (still a little cold for this Lowcountry Mama). Chef J, of course, has to work on Memorial Day, but will come by after work for the festivities. The Ps are grilling up some ribs by the pool and I decided to make my grilled corn (have I mentioned my obsession with corn?).

In certain towns in Mexico, street food is king. I know a lot of people balk at the idea of buying food from a cart on the street. But everywhere I’ve traveled, far or near, some of the best food you can find will be at a street cart with a long line of locals waiting to feast on whatever is being sold. I’ve even been known to buy tacos from the cart in front of my local Mexican grocery here. Just follow the hordes and, generally, you’ll be just fine and very, very satisfied. A favorite treat in Mexico is grilled corn slathered in mayonnaise and crumbly salty cheese. I know, I know! Mayonnaise on corn? Listen, I don’t know why it works but it does so just go with me here. Muy delicioso.

You want to buy the freshest, plumpest corn that you can. In. The. Husks. Leave them on. Please don’t be those people standing at the giant garbage bin in the produce department shucking your corn in the store. Anyway, you need those things because you are going to be roasting/steaming the corn inside nature’s perfect steamer (tamales anyone?). If you really want to, you can peel off ONE layer of husks when you get home (again, move AWAY from the garbage bin – you’ve got one at home people!).

Tastes like summer
Tastes like summer

   mayo mix     queso

You are going to want to put these bad boys on the grill and roast them like a champ. I like to do this on our charcoal grill for two reasons; first, it’s gets SCREAMING hot and it’s just friggin’ awesome, and, second, we don’t have a gas grill so there’s that. Preheat your grill as hot as you can with the coals on one side of the grill. If you get it as hot as I hope, you will need the cooler side for indirect cooking because you don’t want to actually light the corn on fire as the husks start to dry out.

hot grill 1  coals to the side

corn on the grill charred corn testing for doneness

Put the corn on the hot side of the grill and allow it to cook 15-20 minutes, turning VERY often. If you don’t turn it, you may end up with one side totally burned and the other totally raw. After the ears are getting pretty brown all over (and the silks may burn away), move them to the cooler side of the grill and put the lid on it. Continue to roast another 20-25 minutes turning every few minutes until you can tell it’s getting softer and juicier (just give them a little squeeze).

mayo and butter2          chili powder and cayenne         lime zest

When cooled slightly, slather on a mixture of mayo, butter and lime zest and roll in finely crumbled queso fresco (a soft, slightly wet, crumbly salty Mexican cheese) or cotija cheese (a slightly firmer crumbly Mexican cheese a bit more similar to feta). You should be able to buy either of these in the dairy department of your local supermarket or at a Mexican grocery. Allow the cheese to set slightly and serve on the cob.

Cut off end of corn cob          Wipe off any remaining silks with paper towel        Slather on butter and mayo mixture

It’s incredibly messy but so delicious.

Oh. My. God.

Grilled Mexican Corn
  •  6 ears fresh corn, husks on
  • 1/2 stick salted butter, softened to room temp
  • 3/4 C mayonnaise (I like Duke’s)
  • Zest of one lime
  • 1/2 t chili powder
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 C queso fresco or cotija cheese, finely crumbled
  • Fresh chopped cilantro, to taste
 Mix together mayo, butter, spices and lime zest in a small bowl. Set aside.
Crumble queso into a shallow dish or pie plate.
Preheat charcoal grill to high (about 400) with coals pushed to one side of grill. Place ears of corn over hot coals and grill, turning often. After 20 minutes or so, move corn to other side of grill and close cover, turning once or twice more. After 20-25 minutes, squeeze the ears of corn to check that they are beginning to soften. Remove from grill and allow to cool for 10 minutes or so. Cut stalk end of corn off and remove husks from the bottom up (trust me, the silks come off much more easily this way). You can wipe off any remaining silks with a damp paper towel. When cool enough to handle, spread butter and mayo mixture all over the corn, then roll in the crumbled queso.
Messy Mexican street food at it’s finest!

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