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Mexican Corn: Deconstructed

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My childhood friend, Julia, is a competent cook, but occasionally, she has incredible strokes of genius in the kitchen. Julia loves elote, the Mexican corn on the cob that’s grilled until nicely charred, then rubbed with mayonnaise, chile power and salty catija cheese. Without a grill in her Manhattan kitchen or even fresh corn on the cob at this time of year, Julia wanted to turn elote into a baked casserole and I agreed to help. She handed me bags of frozen corn and said I could brown them in a skillet with a little butter. I was convinced the corn would turn to mush before caramelizing, but after several minutes of steaming in the pan, the kernels took on a lovely toasty color and became pleasantly chewy. I added a chopped Serrano chile for the last few minutes of cooking, then scraped the mixture into a casserole dish. I stirred in enough mayonnaise mixed with a squeeze of lime juice to coat the kernels and added some smoked paprika to mimic the grilled flavor. Then I mixed in a handful of catija cheese and baked it for a half hour or so to get it hot. I sprinkled more cheese on top and popped it under the broiler—the dry catija cheese didn't melt but formed an addictive, lightly crunchy crust. While I love the mess that comes with eating elote—the spicy, dripping juices and the lip-coating powdery cheese—Julia’s deconstructed version that's fit for a community cookbook was nothing short of brilliant.

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