Corn is one of my favorite vegetables. There are so many different (and delicious) things that you can do with corn that I never get tired of creating new recipes that call for it. One of my absolute favorite ways to enjoy corn is to eat it fresh off the cob. I don’t know about you, but when it comes to summer cooking, I immediately think of grilling. And if you want to experience the most flavorful corn of your life, I highly recommend trying it grilled. However, not everyone has access to a grill—what then? Well, I’ve recently come up with my own adaptation of an excellent recipe for corn on the cob that is just as mind-blowing off the grill as it is on.
Mexican street corn is life. Plain and simple. The first time I ever tried it I could hardly get enough of it. Its flavor was utter perfection. It was slightly creamy, a little sweet, a little salty and bursting with more flavor than I could shake a stick at. It had also been roasted, which gave it this heavenly smokiness that I’ve been craving ever since. The other day, I got ahold of a few ears of corn and thought, “Why not try to mimic that same experience, but make street corn in the oven instead?” So, that’s exactly what I did. I took a few notes from the traditional steet corn recipe, threw together some of my favorite spices and— voila!— my “Back Alley” street corn was born.
You may be wondering why I call it “Back Alley” street corn. Well, that’s because it isn’t quite street corn. I altered the traditional recipe to suit my own tastes, so instead of making it to the street, it kind of only made it to the alley. (Haha!) It reminds me of one of those shady guys trying to sell undoubtedly stolen television sets and knockoff designer handbags out of the back of their van in city alleyways. You know, when they whisper to you to come over and check out the “Rolexes” in their coat pockets, only to find out that they are more like Fauxlexes. That’s pretty much how my recipe is. It may not be entirely authentic, but it truly is the next best thing.
Things You Need
I originally came up with this recipe on the fly, so I simply worked with whatever ingredients I had on hand. The outcome is really good as it is, but there are a few extra ingredients that I would recommend using as optional toppings once the corn is prepared. It’s definitely not necessary, but if you wanted to upgrade it even more (or show off for guests) I would suggest finishing off the recipe with a spritz of fresh lime juice and some cotija cheese. Delicioso!
- 4 ears of sweet corn
- 4 tbsp. mayo
- 2 tbsp. sour cream
- 1 tbsp. adobo seasoning
- 2 tsp. onion powder
- 2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 2 tsp. white sugar
- cilantro (dried or fresh, as desired)
First, let’s get your corn ready. If you purchased pre-packaged ears that are all ready to go, you can go ahead and skip along to the next step. However, if you have ears of corn that look like you literally just plucked them off the stalk out of someone’s field, we have a little work to do.
Shuck the corn, taking care to remove as much of the corn silk as possible (those are hardly tasty). Rinse the ears to eliminate remaining silk before patting them dry. Set the corn aside.
This is a great time to pre-heat your oven too, so let’s do that. Set the oven to bake at 350 degrees F (177 C).
Next, let’s grab a small mixing bowl and spoon. Deposit the mayonnaise and stir until smooth. Mayo is one of the traditional ingredients for street corn, so we are sticking to basics here. Though I normally cringe at the idea of slathering things in mayo, it gives the corn in this recipe its classic creamy coating. We aren’t using butter on our cob of corn today, so the mayo is what helps all of the other ingredients adhere to the corn.
In the following pictures, you will see that I basically added one ingredient on top of the other without stirring. I only did this for photographic purposes. When preparing this, I do stir each ingredient as I add it to the bowl. It is the very best way to make sure that each addition is properly distributed throughout the mixture, so I highly recommend doing the same.
Let’s add the sour cream in next. Some traditional recipes call for just mayo, others just sour cream and others both. This is one of those “both” moments. The sour cream adds a cool and subtly tangy element to the coating. It helps to round out the more robust flavors of the recipe and ensures that the mixture reaches the right consistency. We want it to be thick enough to stick, but not too thick. Don’t forget to stir!
Adobo seasoning is what comes next, so let’s dump that in there and give everything a thorough mixing. This is an ingredient that isn’t traditionally used in street corn recipes, but I’m so in love with the versatility and convenience of adobo seasoning that I simply had to add it to my own version. The adobo is going to salt the corn and give it a good amount of flavor.
If you aren’t familiar with adobo seasoning or want to make your own, it is simply an all-purpose seasoning blend of salt, garlic, black pepper, oregano and turmeric (or cumin). There are many variations of adobo seasoning, but no matter what version you purchase or whip up yourself, it is a great go-to blend to use whenever you’re cooking Latin foods.
Sugar is another slightly unusual addition to street corn, but I think it’s a pretty important one for this particular recipe. I chose to use sugar for three reasons: 1.) It will help bring out the sweetness of the corn; 2.) It will help to balance out the saltiness of the other ingredients, and 3.) It will vastly emphasize the smoky sweet flavor of the paprika we will be using later.
Speaking of paprika, why not add that in next? Most traditional street corn recipes call for chili powder, which is awesome and I love it, but I wanted to do something slightly different. Typical chili powder tends to be earthy, but a bit one dimensional. Since the corn is being cooked in the oven and not over an open fire (as in the traditional method), I knew the best way to mimic a “just grilled” flavor sans an actual grill would be to add smoked paprika. Since paprika is essentially bell pepper, it has a natural “sweetness”, which is a perfect compliment to the corn. Pair that with the smokiness and we are well on our way to something amazing.
Onion powder is my culinary road dog. I use it in 90-95% of my savory recipes. It’s just the perfect way to elevate the flavor of a dish without having to worry about it overpowering everything else. Another pantry favorite of mine is garlic (fresh and powdered), which is onion powder’s B.F.F., in my opinion. They go together like…two things that go together. What? So I drew a blank and am fresh out of clever analogies— cut me some slack here! Anyhow, the adobo seasoning is full of garlic. How could I not invite onion powder to the street corn party too? It would have been criminal.
I sure hope you’ve been stirring this entire time. If not, let’s have a moment of silence for the spices I decided not to use in this recipe and stir our hearts out. You should end up with a gorgeous coating like this one. If for some reason you decide to taste it (it’s actually quite good), don’t worry if it seems a bit salty. This mixture is extremely concentrated with flavor, so it’s bound to be a bit over the top at first.
However, I can assure you…everything will come together in the end. Once the corn heats up, the coating is going to cook down, saturating each kernel of corn with endless flavor. We simply need to ensure that the coating is flavorful enough to adequately season every bite, so just trust me on this—you know, a complete stranger 😛
Now that we’ve got our coating all mixed up, let’s get ready to cover our corn. When you go to stow the corn away in the oven, you can either place them directly on the rack or cook them on a baking sheet. I’m always super paranoid about things inadvertently dripping and making a mess in the oven, so I prefer having a baking sheet. That way, if anything crazy happens, it can catch whatever overflows and save me from having to clean something up. Heaven forbid.
We are going to make little pouches for our corn, but to do that we’ll need four wide portions of foil. There’s no exact measurement for this though. Simply ensure that each foil portion is long enough to accommodate the length of an ear, but is also wide enough to fully enclose the corn later on.
Whether you are cooking the corn directly on the oven rack or not, prepping the corn pouches on a baking sheet is a great way to keep your table or counter clean. Coating the corn can be slightly messy if you aren’t careful!
For this step, we simply want to place our corn on the foil like a hotdog inside of a bun. Lining everything up ahead of time makes this process go along much easier.
Using a tablespoon, add equal amounts of the mayo mixture to the corn as shown above. To ensure that each ear gets the same amount, I go down the row adding a spoonful until my bowl is empty. It may look like a ridiculous amount of coating at first, but it ends up being just enough. You’ll see! 🙂
Here comes the tricky part. It really doesn’t matter how you coat the corn as long as it gets coated. Personally, I pick up an ear at a time, holding it at one end. With my other hand, I use the back of that same tablespoon we used earlier to smear the mayo mixture in all directions. Once everything is mostly covered, I place the corn back on the foil, touching up any spots I missed.
Another easy way to do this would be to wear gloves and simply massage the mixture onto each ear. However, you can do this any way that suits you. As long as the corn is fully covered, we are good to go!
Now it is time to top the corn with a liberal sprinkling of cilantro. Not only does the cilantro provide a delicate, authentic flavor, but it also makes the corn look gorgeous. I simply love the contrast of green against the burnt orange coating.
Once you’re finished “decorating”, we must say goodbye to the corn for a little while. Create little foil bundles by bringing the foil ends together over the top of the corn. Starting from the bottom, gently pinch the open sides of the foil, drawing the foil in and up as you fold along the sides.
We don’t want the sauce to melt and spill out of the pouch, so continue to fold/pinch the foil in an upward direction until you reach the top. Fold the excess foil down until you are just above the top of the corn, but not touching it. Once everything is sealed, you can press the seams a little harder, making sure steam cannot escape and sauce will not spill out.
At this point, the corn is definitely ready to cook. However, you could also allow the corn to marinate before cooking. An hour would be plenty sufficient, but overnight would be even better. Just make sure to keep them refrigerated until you are ready to cook them off. Leaving mayo out is a huge no-no.
I’m usually in a hurry to get my corn going, so if you’re like me, let’s put the corn on the middle rack and set a timer for 40 minutes (this is ideal whether you cook them on the oven rack or on a baking sheet).
*If you would like to cook the corn on the grill, by all means, do it! Simply grill the corn in their pouches for approximately 20 minutes and serve. *
When those 40 minutes are up, your entire kitchen should smell like heaven on earth. In fact, you will probably smell that the corn is done before the timer says it is. This is a great time to open up the pouches and add any additional toppings that you want.
Street corn is great as a beautiful side dish or snack. You can pair it with grilled meats or seafood—just about anything your imagination dreams up. I’m happy with street corn, some tortilla chips and a dash of hot sauce or pico de gallo though because simple food is often the best.
What I love about this recipe is how downright flavorful it is. Every single bite is as good as the one before it. I’m usually sorry that I can’t eat the cob itself because the seasoning saturates it almost as well as the kernels! The foil pouches really seal in the heat, ensuring that the corn cooks to perfection each and every time I make it. Each kernel is well seasoned and tender. All of the flavors come together so beautifully. It is sweet and savory in the best of ways, which makes this my latest favorite recipe.
If you guys happen to try this recipe, I’d really love to know what you think about it. It’s been a hit with everyone I’ve “tested” it on so far, so hopefully you’ll love it too. ’Til next time…stay golden! ❤