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The Washington Post

Esquites

Esquites 10.000

Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post; tableware from Crate and Barrel

Jul 23, 2014

Yucatan street-food vendors offer esquites as fresh, warmed corn kernels in a cup, topped with crema, cotija cheese, chili powder and a squeeze of lime juice. Here, roasted poblanos and fresh red bell pepper amp up the color and flavor.

Make Ahead: Leftover recado spice blend can be stored at room temperature for up to 6 months. The corn mixture needs to rest for 30 minutes.


Servings:
10

When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 10 servings; makes 4 cups

Ingredients
  • 3 tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 3 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano, lightly toasted (see NOTE)
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 20 allspice berries
  • 13 bay leaves (8 of them broken up)
  • 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
  • Kernels from 5 or 6 large ears fresh corn (4 cups)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • 1 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups diced roasted poblano chili pepper (see NOTES)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice, plus wedges for serving
  • Mexican crema, for serving
  • 3 1/2 ounces crumbled cotija cheese, for serving
  • Ground cayenne pepper, for serving

Directions

For the recado: Combine the peppercorns, oregano, cloves, allspice berries and the 8 broken bay leaves in a spice grinder; grind to a powder. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl, crumbling any remaining larger bits with your fingers. Return anything left in the strainer to the spice grinder and grind to a powder. Repeat the straining step.

Add the remaining bay leaves to the powder and toss to incorporate. Transfer to an airtight container; the yield is 1/4 cup.

For the esquites: Heat 1/2 cup of the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the corn, salt and 1 teaspoon of the recado spice blend; cook, stirring constantly, for 6 or 7 minutes, scraping the bottom of the pan to keep the corn from sticking. The kernels should be a slightly deeper golden color and barely softened. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

Add the remaining 1/4 cup of oil to the bowl, along with the red bell pepper, poblanos and scallions, tossing to incorporate. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes. (If you won't be serving this right away, cover and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before serving.)

Add the lime juice and toss to incorporate. Taste, and adjust the seasoning. Serve each portion with a drizzle of crema, a sprinkling of the cheese and cayenne pepper.

NOTES: Toast the oregano in a small, dry skillet over medium heat just until fragrant, shaking the pan to avoid scorching. Cool completely before using.

Broil 3 large poblanos on an aluminum-foil-lined baking sheet, turning until evenly charred, or char over the flame of a gas burner. Place in a plastic bag, seal and steam for 15 minutes. Discard the charred skins, seeds and ribs. Cut the flesh into small dice.


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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Yucatan: Recipe From a Culinary Expedition," by David Sterling (University of Texas Press, 2014).

Tested by Johnna Rowe.

E-mail questions to the Food Section.

E-mail questions to the Food Section at food@washpost.com.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per serving: 210


% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 17g 26%

Saturated Fat: 3g 15%

Cholesterol: 0mg 0%

Sodium: 330mg 14%

Total Carbohydrates: 15g 5%

Dietary Fiber: 3g 12%

Sugar: 3g

Protein: 2g


*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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