Why This Recipe Works: In Mexico, street vendors add kick to grilled corn by slathering it with a creamy, spicy, cheesy sauce. The corn takes on an irresistibly sweet, smoky, charred flavor, which is heightened by the lime juice and chili powder in the sauce. For our own rendition of this south-of-the-border street fare, we ditched the husks, coated the ears with oil to prevent sticking, and grilled them directly on the grate over a hot fire so the corn could develop plenty of char. The traditional base for the sauce is crema, a thick, soured Mexican cream. But given its limited availability in supermarkets, we replaced the crema with a combination of mayonnaise (for richness) and sour cream (for tanginess).
If you can find queso fresco or Cotija, use either in place of the Pecorino Romano. If you prefer the corn spicy, add the optional cayenne pepper.
1 1/2 ounces Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (3/4 cup)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
4 teaspoons lime juice
1 garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 ears corn, husks and silk removed
1A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Open bottom vent completely. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes (6 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
1B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
2. Meanwhile, combine Pecorino, mayonnaise, sour cream, cilantro, lime juice, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, pepper, and cayenne, if using, in large bowl and set aside. In second large bowl, combine oil, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder. Add corn to oil mixture and toss to coat evenly.
3. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place corn on grill (on hotter side if using charcoal) and cook (covered if using gas) until lightly charred on all sides, 7 to 12 minutes, turning as needed. Place corn in bowl with cheese mixture, toss to coat evenly, and serve.
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