Mexican street food goes gourmet | Cook This: Recipes

Inspiration can come from almost anything. I can see one ingredient that energizes me, then my mind is off to the races, creating a dish.

Others may be my travels or what’s fresh, staring at me at the farmers market. Or a restaurant we recently visited, where I fell in love with a dish I just need to re-create.

There’s always a backstory that builds around my recipes. I believe it’s what makes a dish special. Recently, we visited Angeline, a new restaurant at the Borgata in Atlantic City. My swordfish was off the charts. I usually don’t care for swordfish, but the sauce made it. Stay tuned for my copycat version.

But for now, on this month’s episode of "Cook This!" it's Mexican Corn on the Cob (otherwise known as elote). It’s a popular street food in Mexico, served with a husk handle or by inserting a stick to make eating more fun and easier.

I find the sticks are less tedious to prepare. The husks can ignite while grilling (it's best to wrap them in foil to prevent that from happening, if choosing that option).

A few years ago, I had to create a recipe(s) for corn on the cob done seven ways for a cookbook. My favorite was the Mexican style. Riffing off my own development, I tackled a new version years later with more complex flavors. My newest creation is slathered in an earthy, spicy ancho butter, sprinkled with spices, then finished with creamy feta, which I prefer over the traditional cotija (it has a creamier tang), fresh cilantro and squirt of bright lime juice.

It’s colorful, festive and a meal on its own. To me, it's more than street food; it's gourmet. And most importantly, don’t forget to choose freshly picked corn. As soon as the corn is picked, ideally, it’s the best time to eat it, delivering milky sweetness. The longer it sits, the sugar turns to starch. Ever had corn on the cob that wasn’t very sweet? Chances are it was picked many days ago. Ask your farmers market or grocery store when it was picked. Starting with good, fresh corn will ensure the best elote.

Our Cypriot relatives are in town this month, so I wanted to have them for dinner, and there was no way I was preparing Greek food for them, since they eat that every day. So Mexican it was. We started off with fresh strawberry peach margaritas, simple yet fresh guacamole and spicy Mexican steak. But the elote stole the show. Our relatives loved it.

As we were eating, I thought, elote is a dish that can be shared only with family and close friends; it’s quite messy. This is where the stick comes in handy. But messy eats are the best and create a bond. As I looked around the table, we were all in the same position, hunched over our plates, knuckles wrapped around the elote stick, and chomping away like an old-school typewriter. I giggled to myself. It was a moment I will cherish forever.

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Shereen Pavlides is a professionally trained chef, recipe developer, food stylist, food correspondent and the host of Cook This! with Shereen. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter @TweetandEats

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