You can’t go far on the North Fork without coming across a field of corn reaching its peak and at Mattitaco in Mattituck, this time of year is when their esquitas, or Mexican street corn, tastes the best.
“Because it’s been really dry this summer, the corn is still on the smaller side,” Justin Schwartz, owner and chef, said. “With this rain today, when they harvest the corn in two more days, the kernels are going to go from smaller to huge. It’ll be sweeter. You want the kernels to be so big that when you cut into the corn, the kernels want to pop off.”
The small bites corn dish that Schwartz makes starts with that local corn from Rottkamp’s Fox Hollow Farm, McBride Farms on Oregon Road or Wesnofske Farms. He adds elements from every flavor profile to make a completely mouthwatering, umami-filled, yet simple and easy dish.
Mexican street corn can be made in two different ways — esquinas, the way it’s done at Mattitaco, where the corn is removed from the cob, or elote where the corn is served on the cob. Either way, the recipe is simple. To remove the kernels from the cob, simply cut them off raw.
“You don’t want to cut close to the cob or else you’ll get the ends,” Schwartz said. Then, throw them in a skillet on the grill or on a flat top in some oil. If you’re going the elote route, husk the corn, and brush some oil on it.
“With the corn as sweet as it is right now, you don’t want to overcook it,” he said. “It can get mealy, and the kernels will start to pop and you can lose all that sugar. Just cook it enough so it gets a little brown.”
Take it off the heat and dress it. Schwartz squeezes on a lime aioli made with lime, salt and Hellman’s mayo, sprinkles on queso fresco and finishes it off with some cayenne. “You get a little sour, the queso fresco has a nice salt content to it, and then the cayenne gives a little heat. It’s the perfect combination — like every flavor that you want in just the smallest little dish.”
When Schwartz is at home, he will switch it up a bit. “For backyard barbecuing, I throw it on the grill with the husk still on and let it steam itself. I’ll make chipotle butter, so you get the spice and the sweet out of that,” he said. “Or you could also do a lime or lemon butter. Or make a Mexican crema, which is sour cream, lime and a little bit of mayo.”
If you’re looking to keep it even simpler, just throw it in a salad. “What’s nice is corn season always coincides with the season for beans, peppers, peas,” he said. “It’s easy to go to any farm stand and make a killer all vegetable grill or a phenomenal salad. When the corn is at its peak, you almost don’t have to do anything.”