April 29, 2012

Elote- Mexican Street Corn

corn + mayo = so good

Food flavor profiles and the combination of ingredients can sometimes surprise you.  Something as simple as chocolate dipped potato chips may sound wildly outrageous to a few of you, but in reality, it is delicious. (Who doesn't like that sweet and salty combination?)  Elote is no exception.  The two main ingredients here are corn and good ol' mayonnaise.  I know some of you reading this are cringing at the mere thought of it.

Sedona, AZ

I've never understood why so many people out there absolutely detest mayonnaise.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I love it.  Cream cheese, sour cream, alfredo sauce- if it's white and creamy, chances are I'm a fan, and yes, go ahead and insert your inappropriate joke here.

a view that takes your breath away

So while others may be hesitant to give elote- also called Mexican street corn- a try, the idea of corn rubbed in a mixture of mayonnaise, lime juice and smoky spices was something I was immediately drawn to.  I was first introduced to this dish back in September at The Mission, a mexican restaurant located here in Scottsdale, and was instantaneously hooked.  The idea of it was so simple, but it was unlike anything I had ever had.

cheesy I know, but I still like it <3

Cut to February, the weekend before Valentine's day when Jon and I traveled to Sedona to celebrate our 1 year anniversary, and I had my second encounter with this creamy corn that, honestly, I had been thinking about for months now at this point.  I had been trying to sell elote to Jon ever since my first bite at The Mission, and wouldn't you know that Sedona had a restaurant that went by that very name.

gotta love those red rocks!

Elote (the restaurant that is) doesn't take reservations, and they are only open for dinner.  As per the recommendations listed on Yelp, Jon and I arrived around 4:45 pm and joined the line of about 100 other individuals who had gotten there before us to eagerly await Elote's nightly opening of its doors at 5 pm sharp.

gloomy day, but still a gorgeous view

Of course, elote was obviously featured on the menu, their interpretation served off the cob in a bowl mixed with the mayo mixture, but Jon and I also savored their shredded beef empanada, the Colorado lamb shank braised in a spicy adobo sauce and the smoked duck breast with pasilla chiles.  Needless to say, the meal was spectacular.  It's upscale, yet traditional Mexican cuisine layered with complex flavors of spice and smoke.  And while the lamb was nothing short of perfection, wouldn't you know what Jon's favorite part of the meal was- the elote.

Elote- Mexican Street Corn

Recipe Inspired by Elote Café

4 ears of sweet corn, husks on
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cup mayonnaise (I prefer to use reduced fat Hellman's)
2 tsp lime juice
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp + 1/2 tbsp paprika
kosher salt to taste
1/4 cup cotija cheese, crumbled (a mexican cheese available at most supermarkets)
1/2 tbsp ancho chile powder (regular chile powder can be substituted)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro 
1 lime, cut into 4 wedges

1. Soak the corn in cold water for about 30 minutes. Peel back the husks, making sure to leave them intact, and pull off the silk from the corn. Pull the husks back up around the corn.

2. Heat a grill to medium high heat. Place the corn on the grill and cook for about 20-25 minutes, making sure to rotate a few times throughout grilling to ensure the corn is cooked evenly.  Remove from the grill and let cool slightly. 

3. Once the corn is cool enough to handle, pull off the husks and slather each ear with 1/2 tbsp butter. Mix the mayonnaise, lime juice, cayenne, 1/2 tsp paprika and a little salt together in a small bowl and set aside. Mix the ancho chile powder and 1/2 tbsp paprika together in a different small bowl, set aside. 

4. Brush each ear with the mayonnaise mixture, coat with cotija cheese and top with cilantro and a sprinkling of the chile powder mixture. Serve with a lime wedge and enjoy!

Makes 4 servings

April 6, 2012

Lamb Burgers with Minty-Cucumber Yogurt Sauce

Easter time lamb burgers

Easter is one of those holidays where families come together to celebrate, often around an impressive spread.  Growing up, my family used breakfast time to establish a long running tradition of enjoying Cinnamon Apple Muffins in the morning while hunting down candy colored Easter eggs and combing through the basket the Easter Bunny had left us.  (Remind me to share those muffins with you next Easter, will you?)

chopped cucumber

So in the spirit of tradition, I wanted to create something for Easter dinner this year, something that Jon and I could enjoy together, something that was rooted in Easter tradition.  Though I've never personally enjoyed leg of lamb or rack of lamb or even lamb chops for Easter dinner, lamb is something I've always associated with this particular holiday.

New Zealand lamb

I considered going the way of leg of lamb, but that seemed a little too fancy, and a lot too gluttonous for just Jon and I.  I thought about perhaps braising some lamb shanks, but I figured those might be too difficult to find (they're not). So what I decided was the best fit for Jon and I, on our first Easter dinner together, was lamb burgers.  It's casual, relatively simple to make and it can be cooked outside on the grill so that Jon and I could simultaneously enjoy the Arizona sunshine and a few cocktails poolside.

mint-cucumber yogurt sauce

I did some research and came up with what I think is one tasty burger.  I paired it with a mint and cucumber yogurt sauce, because, well, what is more traditional than lamb accompanied by mint?  This way, however, it has my own little spin on it.  The burgers are full of flavor and have that unctuous taste that can really only be delivered by lamb- a flavor profile that I am becoming quite obsessed with lately.  So if you're looking to indulge in a casual tradition this Easter Sunday, lamb burgers just might be the way to go.  Serve it along side some freshly grilled, sweet corn and a glass of crisp, white wine. Oh, and some chocolate eggs too.

juicy lamb burgers

Lamb Burgers
Recipe by Karlie

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1 1/2 lbs ground lamb
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 tbsp finely chopped mint
3 tbsp finely chopped parsley
1 fresno chile, minced
1/2 cup plus 2 tbsp crumbled feta cheese
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp cumin
1 egg
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

4 buns or rolls of your choosing (we used onion and poppy seed buns bought individually from the bakery section of our supermarket)
sliced tomato
butter lettuce
pea sprouts
Mint-Cucumber Yogurt Sauce (see recipe below)

1. Heat your grill to about medium heat- charcoal or gas, your preference.  Now go inside and heat a medium sized pan over medium high heat.  Add the olive oil and after a minute or two add the onion and sauté until slightly golden, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool for a few minutes.

2. In a large bowl, add the lamb, cooled onions and the rest of the ingredients, garlic through salt and pepper. With your hands, dig in and mix everything together until it all looks evenly distributed, but be careful not to over mix the meat. Divide the meat into four sections, then shape and flatten into patties.

3. Place the patties on the grill and cook for about 5-6 minutes on each side, depending on the degree of doneness you prefer your burgers. Slather one side of each bun with the Mint-Cucumber Yogurt Sauce.  Top with a lamb patty, tomato slice, butter lettuce and pea sprouts. Take a big bite and enjoy!

Makes 4 servings

Mint-Cucumber Yogurt Sauce
Recipe by Karlie

1 cup non-fat plain greek yogurt
2 tsp chopped dill
1 tbsp finely chopped mint
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cucumber peeled and chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1. Place the greek yogurt in a strainer thats covered with a layer of paper towel and set on top of a bowel. Let the yogurt strain for about 20 minutes.

2. Place the yogurt, dill, mint, garlic and lemon juice in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until smooth and blended. Stir in the cucumber and season to taste with salt and pepper. Enjoy!