When I lived in New York, any time I found myself in SoHo I would make the stop at Cafe Habana's takeout window for their Mexican-style corn on a stick. Juggling shopping bags, I would eat it on the way to the subway, already plotting my next visit. I knew it wasn't a pleasure confined to a restaurant, but it didn't seem all that practical to make at home either - and somehow, the idea of taking the corn off the cob just didn't occur to me.
When a friend made this salad for July 4th, I knew it was a recipe I'd make over and over. It's bright and fresh with cilantro and lime juice, yet smoky with the slightly charred corn and chili powder, The salty tang of Cotija cheese pulls it all together. For the closest relative to street corn, serve the salad just after you make it, while it's still warm. But it's also great at room temperature, making it an easy potluck dish. I would tell you whether it's good cold, but I wouldn't know. There's never enough left.
Mexican Street Corn Salad
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
8 large ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed (about 6 cups)
4 tablespoons mayonnaise
4 ounces Cotija cheese, finely crumbled (plus more to sprinkle on top)
1 cup cilantro leaves, finely chopped
1 cup finely sliced green onions (scallions), green part only
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely diced
3 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 - 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice (approximately 2 limes, depending on size)
Chili powder to taste
Heat oil in a large cast-iron skillet (or a non-stick skillet) over high heat until shimmering. Add the corn kernels, season with salt to taste, and toss the corn in the pan, cooking it until it begins to brown (about 10 minutes). Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl.
Add mayonnaise, cheese, cilantro, green onion, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, and chili powder. Toss to combine. Add additional salt and chili powder if needed.
Serve immediately or at room temperature, sprinkling the top with additional Cotija cheese and chili powder.