My kids went to Chicago last fall because their grandparents wanted to take them to see Hamilton, the musical (or I should say, THE musical). After listening to the soundtrack endlessly when the musical first came out, I was happy they got to see the real thing. They were not disappointed. Apparently, the live performance was even more spectacular than they had imagined. I assumed they would come home talking about Hamilton non-stop. However, that was not the case at all. As impressed as they were with the show, they were equally impressed with a creamed corn dish they had at The Dearborn restaurant at dinner one night. I figured if this creamed elote was good enough to rival Hamilton in their memories, it was definitely worth experimenting to try to replicate the recipe.
Calling this dish elote does use a very liberal interpretation of the original concept. The popular Mexican dish usually calls for grilling corn and then topping it with liberal amounts of mayonnaise, chili powder, lime juice, and queso fresco or cotija cheese. However, given that The Dearborn inspired this recipe and they called it creamed elote, I’m sticking with that name. In this version of elote, the mayonnaise is blended with some roasted fresno peppers to create an aioli and the chili powder is replaced with togarashi, a Japanese chili powder. The fresno pepper and togarashi combination adds a subtle smokey heat to the creamy corn. And it’s pretty darn amazing.
I knew I had hit the recipe when my kids and I gathered around the stove for a taste and ate half the pan even before adding the queso fresco. So maybe I didn’t get to see Hamilton out of this deal but I’m willing to take this creamed elote recipe as a consolation.
For the fresno aioli
- 4 medium fresno peppers
- 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
- 1 clove garlic
- Pinch of kosher salt
For the corn
- 4 ears of corn
- 1/2 cup cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1–2 teaspoons togarashi (See Notes)
- 5 tablespoons crumbled queso fresco
For the fresno aioli
- Preheat the oven to 475 degrees. Split the peppers in half lengthwise so they will lay relatively flat. Remove the stems, seeds, and ribs. Place the pepper halves in a foil lined rimmed baking sheet skin side up. Bake until the skin is blistered over most of the surface, 15-25 minutes. Remove the peppers from the oven and carefully fold the edges of the foil to wrap the peppers up. Let sit until cool enough to handle then peel away the skin from each pepper half and discard. You should end up with about 1 tablespoon of roasted fresno peppers.
- In the small bowl of a food processor, add in the roasted peppers, mayonnaise, garlic and salt. Process the mixture until the peppers are finely chopped and evenly mixed into the mayonnaise, stopping to scrape down the side of the bowl as needed. Set aside.
For the corn
- Heat the grill to high.
- Shuck the corn and rinse under cold water.
- Grill the corn over direct heat and cook, turning occasionally, until charred on all sides and fully tender, about 8-10 minutes total.
- Remove corn from the grill and let sit until cool enough to handle. For each cob, remove the kernels by standing the cob upright in a rimmed baking sheet and running a knife down the side of the corn cutting off the kernels as you go. Save 3 of the cobs. Set the cut kernels aside.
- In a large saucepan, add cream and the reserved corn cobs (breaking them in half if necessary so they fit in the pan). Bring the mixture to a low simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes. Working with one corn cob at a time, pick up one cob from the pan using tongs. While holding the cob over the pan, run the back side of a knife down the cob to remove any extra cream and corn flavor. Discard the cobs.
- Return the pan to low heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted, whisk in the fresno pepper aioli. Then add the reserved kernels and stir until the corn is evenly coated and heated through. Season with salt to taste.
- Transfer the corn to a large serving dish or individual ramekins. Sprinkle with togarashi and then sprinkle with queso fresco. You can serve the corn as is or, if desired, put the serving dish or ramekins under the broiler for a few minutes to melt the queso fresco.
Togarashi is a Japanese spice mix. I used ichimi togarashi which has just chili pepper as opposed to other varieties which have sesame seeds or other add-ins. It can be found at Asian grocery stores or on-line.