How is it that I can follow a recipe and have the dish turn out completely different than what it was supposed to be? I learned a lesson on how a lot of little (tiny, really) changes can make a BIG difference in the end result.
There is this fantastic contemporary Mexican restaurant called Elote Café in Sedona, AZ. Brian and I have been there a couple of times and the food never disappoints. “Elote” is the Mexican name for corn on the cob. Elote Café’s version of its namesake dish is a creamy and spicy corn dip served with tortilla chips. We loved it. Talk about an appetizer that ruins your appetite because you eat too much.
Brian tracked down the recipe for me. I followed it “almost” to a tee. Okay, I modified ingredient types and amounts: I used thawed frozen corn instead of corn off the cob, I added another teaspoon of sugar, I used white wine instead of chicken stock and I increased the amount of Parmesan. I consider these minor changes. Otherwise, I followed the method.
And…it turned out nothing like we remember. We wanted it as a side dish instead of an appetizer dip, so I allowed the mayonnaise mixture to reduce longer than I would have otherwise. Still, there was never a moment when it looked like the dish we were served in the festive serving bowl in Sedona. On top of that, it did not taste like our precious elote from the Elote Café.
Thank goodness it was still delicious!! This was clearly a case where even when things went wrong, they were right. Each bite is bursting with a flavor punch (or, several punches). All the flavors marry wonderfully, which is interesting considering the plethora of strong flavors here. Every flavor plays starring role and minor character at the same time, somehow. I am not sure how I did it, but I came away with something very tasty, albeit different than I intended. Still, this is where new dishes come from, right?
Now we have to see if I can duplicate my own dish…
Arizona Corn Hash
Derived from Elote Café’s elote
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 cups corn (fresh or frozen. If using frozen corn, thaw before cooking)
1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste (I used a combination of habanero and Frank’s hot sauces.)
Juice of 2 limes
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
¼ cup white wine (or chicken stock)
½ cup Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Pinch of ground ancho chili powder, or to taste (up to ½ teaspoon)
Heat the oil in a cast iron or heavy bottom over medium-high heat. Add the corn to the skillet when the oil is hot. Cook the corn until slightly charred, but still not cooked through.
While the corn is charring, combine the mayonnaise, hot sauce, lime juice, salt, pepper, sugar and white wine together in a small bowl. When the corn is slightly charred, add the mayonnaise mixture to the skillet. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. The mixture will look way too soupy. Be patient, it will tighten up as it cooks.
If you are using the corn hash as a dip, take it off the heat when the mayonnaise mixture is heated through. If you are having the corn hash as a side dish, as we did, let the corn cook until the mayonnaise mixture reduces and the entire dish thickens considerably.
Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, chopped cilantro and ancho chili powder. Transfer corn hash to a serving bowl. Serve immediately with tortilla chips or a spoon.