Elote Gets a Tiny Makeover: Baby Corn for Cinco de Mayo

Baby corns are slathered in mayo, fried in butter, and covered in chili powder and cheese. (Photo: Ally-Jane Grossan)

Baby corn is so often taken for granted. Sometimes it’s used as filler for salad bars or served with bottled teriyaki sauce in a stir-fry. Have you ever wondered about baby corn? Is it a really just young, under ripe corn or is it an entirely different plant?

Yahoo Food is here to settle the mystery: It really just is baby corn, harvested when the plant is young and the cobs are still soft. Fresh baby corn is almost impossible to find in North America because it is expensive to produce and must be picked by hand. The baby ears are so delicate and must be harvested at exactly the right time, just before the kernels harden. Most of the crops are grown in places like Thailand and Indonesia in Southeast Asia, and are canned and shipped overseas.

Baby corn is often used in Thai and Chinese cooking but for this recipe, baby corn goes south of the border to Mexico. Elote is a popular Mexican street food that has found its way onto restaurant menus the world over. Though there are many different incarnations, the principle is simple: take a fresh ear of grilled corn, smother it in mayonnaise, cheese, and chili powder and then squeeze a lime on top. This recipe takes the popular street food and shrinks it down into downright adorable bite sized pieces. It’s not often that I enjoy food described as adorable without an eye roll but these baby corns are a delicious exception.

Baby Corn Elote
Serves 4 as an appetizer

2 14-ounce cans baby corn
¼ cup mayonnaise
4 tablespoons finely grated cojita or Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 lime, cut into wedges

Drain, rinse and dry the baby corns and set aside on a paper towel.

Prepare an assembly line so you can fry all of the baby corns at once. Crush the garlic clove and mix in a small bowl with the mayonnaise. Spread cheese on a small plate.

Heat the butter over a medium-high flame in a small pan that conducts heat really well – use the sturdiest pan you have. Fry 5 baby corns at time, letting them brown on one side before turning, cooking for a total of 4 minutes. Aim for nice char marks.

Remove corn to a plate to cool for a moment and then fry the rest in small batches. Using a butter knife, coat each ear in a thin layer of mayonnaise and then roll delicately in the cheese. Sprinkle with chili powder and arrange on a plate and squeeze on the lime just before serving.

Ally-Jane Grossan is an editor and food writer in Brooklyn, NY. Her recipes and food adventures can be found at Ally-Jane.com .

More Cinco de Mayo ideas:

Mexican Salad recipe from Rick Bayless

Kimchi quesadillas

Legendary Nachos from L.A.’s Bar Amá