Albany Park is one of Chicago's wonderful ethnic neighborhoods. Though sprinkled with Thai, Bosnian, and Arabic families, Albany Park is dominated by Latino influences. It happens to be where Barrett in Chicago and the Redhead currently live, and is a great place to find Latino food favorites.
Along the Chicago River on the East border of Albany Park is beautiful Horner Park. Every day, you can find kids and adults playing baseball, tennis, soccer, and basketball. When they get hungry from all the exercise, everyone heads to the carts on California Avenue where they buy mangos, pork skins with hot sauce, flavored shaved ices, and best of all elotes (corn).
When you buy elotes from the street carts, you can get it on a stick or in a cup with butter, cheese, and spicy chili powder. It's amazing. I've adapted the basic idea behind the elotes in a cup and made it into a taco filling. But don't worry, food-on-a-stick afficianados, we've got the original cob on a stick version as well (though I will admit my cheese sprinkle coating skills don't rate compared to the cart version).
The hot cayenne powder will make your lips tingle, but the sweet sweet corn will cut the burn on your tongue, letting you eat way too much of these tacos filled with elotes.
The Redhead last night declared this simple meal the best thing ever and her favorite dish. It was cheap, easy to make, and delicious. I can guarantee this is going to be a summer staple around our household.
Elotes Tacos, Albany Park style serves two very hungry adults
3 ears or corn
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2-3 ounces Cotija cheese, or other non-melty very finely crumbled cheese. Parmesan might be very interesting, if not Latin American.
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper powder
salt and pepper to taste
6 flour tortillas, warmed
1 avocado, sliced
Put a big pot of water on to boil. Shuck your corn and discard all but a couple of the leaves of the inner green husk (not the silk, the leaves). Add the leaves to the pot. This is the great secret in boiling corn. More than the corn itself, this adds a wonderful corn aroma to the kitchen and flavor to the corn itself.
When the water is boiling, add the 3 ears of corn and boil until tender but not mushy - about 10-15 minutes for the average ear.
When the corn is done, remove it from the pot, and shave the corn from the cob with a sharp knife. I use a skewer to steady the cob without burning my fingers.
Mix the melted butter, cheese, cayenne, and salt and pepper into the corn kernels. Taste and adjust salt and pepper (and cayenne if you really like it hot).
Put the corn mix into warmed four tortillas, and add a couple of avocado slices. Serve with grilled bulb onions and a lime wedge. A little lime on the taco filling really wakes the corn flavor up.
Now if you'd like to try this the original way I experienced it (on a stick), put the butter in a corn dish or similar vessel where you can roll corn cobs in it and do the same for the cheese.
Boil the corn as above. Skewer the corn on a long stick, then roll the cobs first in butter, then the cheese, then sprinkle cayenne, salt and black pepper on them to taste. You'll find that the cheese won't stick where there is no butter, so make sure you have enough butter on the plate before rolling.
Eat outside in the sunshine in the middle of a beautiful Spring/Summer day.