There was a time in my life when I didn’t know mayo on corn was magic. A time when I didn’t know to add cheese or cilantro or chili to that mayo. A time when I didn’t know about elotes also known as Mexican Street Corn. But these days I know this portable, messy wonder of a snack like I know my Grandmother’s tea biscuits. I’ve had it a few blocks from my house, a few miles from my house, and a few countries away. But although I recognize the simple genius of this street snack and delight in playing with its flavor profile – today’s Street Corn Stuffed Portobellos are a prime example – I never would’ve thought to make it.
Sometimes when I look at the universally loved elotes, I see a strong case for immigration, for the free exchange of ideas across borders. Other times I see lunch, but when I’m feeling all intellectual-like I can see our potential as a global society in a single cob. At this point, you might be thinking, “dude, it’s corn!” but it’s not just corn. When I was a kid, corn on the cob was boiled, slathered in butter and dusted with salt. I never would’ve considered adding it to the BBQ, let alone introducing it to mayo or sour cream. I used to think my father was rebellious for adding pepper to his cob.
Fast forward to today and elotes are popular in my neighborhood and I live a whole country away from where they come from. And if I don’t feel like shedding my yoga pants, I can terrorize my neighbors and grill some in my own backyard. There are recipes for Mexican Street Corn everywhere. If it weren’t for the cultural mosaic that is Toronto and the wonders of the Internet, I would’ve never thought to add mayo to my corn. And that would be sad because if there is a solid use for mayo I definitely want to hear about it.
There are countless other elotes. Pho, xiao long bao (soup dumplings), falafel, bubble tea, saag paneer, souvlaki, pierogies, tamales, so many! These dishes and many more like them make the same case as elotes. I never would’ve thought to make any of them in isolation, so we should thank our lucky stars we’re not in isolation. I think it’s kind of beautiful that popular dishes from other countries are capable of attaining that same popularity abroad. We all have taste buds, we all know what’s good and it has nothing to do with where you’re from. And because of our shared human experience we all now know that corn on the cob is infinitely better with mayo, cheese, and chili. It’s now a shared fact the same way procrastination is a universal affliction, and inappropriately-timed sneezes are inherently louder. These are the things that unite us.
As our society becomes more and more global it’s interesting to watch dishes fold themselves into new communities. To watch the changes these foods undergo when they are recreated in parts of the world in different climates, with different produce, and a different dominant culture. It’s interesting to watch as “fusion” becomes a regionally-specific cuisine. And while I know there can and is a dark side to these exchange of dishes (cultural appropriation and whitewashing spring to mind) there is also the potential for a lot of good and delicious things as long as we respect the sources from which we pull our inspiration. So, with that, I will move onto my latest manipulation of the elotes, these Street Corn Stuffed Portobellos.
Okay, so these guys are easy to make. I really really do mean it this time. They are a snap! The filling requires some chopping and stirring and the mushrooms themselves need nothing more than a soy sauce bath and indirect heat on a charcoal grill. All elementary stuff, now for the controversial part.
If you snuck a peek at the recipe you may have noticed there is no mayo in these Street Corn Stuffed Portobellos. I know, I made a huge deal about the mayo and corn thing and then I subbed the mayo out for yogurt. You guys know me, I don’t generally shy away from the likes of heavy cream, butter or mayo. But I opted for yogurt. Please don’t be angry. I did it because I wanted the tang of a soured milk product and sour cream is just too extra. Plus, I made these on a Wednesday. Weeknights are virtuous, weekends are debaucherous. That’s a saying, right? Is it not? Can we make it one?
You also may have noticed that I used feta instead of the usual cojita. The cojita would’ve involved a special trip, the feta was in my fridge. You can see why the feta made it in there. I’m all for going the extra mile for a meal and I encourage you to do so, but I’d already taken my bra off. Again, you can see why the feta made it in there. Other than a crumbling of feta, I finished these bad boys off with my usual favs. Pickled onions, avocado, and jalapenos.
So, that’s the scoop on these Street Corn Stuffed Portobellos. Thank you for enduring my ramblings on food and culture. Allow me to reward you with a recipe…I’m sure that’s all you wanted in the first place.
Street Corn Stuffed Portobellos
Pickled Red Onions
- 1/2 red onion halved and sliced thin
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup white vinegar
Street Corn Stuffed Portobellos
- 4 portobello mushroom caps
- 2 cloves garlic divided
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt divided
- 2 ears of corn shucked
- 2 jalapenos quarted and thinly sliced
- Juice of 1 lime
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro finely chopped
- 1/4 cup feta or cojita cheese crumbled
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1 avocado pitted and sliced
- 1 batch pickled red onions see above
- Additional cheese for sprinkling
For the Pickled Onion
- Place the salt, sugar and vinegar in a small bowl or jar. Stir until the sugar dissolves.
- Add the onion to the vinegar mixture and cover. Let pickle at room temperature for at least 3 hours.
- Store the onions in the fridge until ready to use.
For the Stuffed Portobellos
- Mince one clove of the garlic and place it in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Whisk to combine.
- Place the portobello mushroom caps in a resealable bag or a large container. Pour the soy sauce mixture over top. Use a pastry brush to ensure the mushrooms are evenly coated. Place the mushrooms in the fridge and let marinate for at least 3 hours.
- Cut the corn off the cob and place it in a large bowl. Mince the remaining garlic clove and add it to the bowl. Add the jalapeno, lime juice, yogurt, cheese, cilantro, chili powder, cumin, coriander seed and the remaining salt. Stir to combine. Cover the stuffing and transfer to the fridge until ready to cook.
- When ready to cook, spoon the corn stuffing into the marinated portobello caps and set aside.
- Heat one side of a charcoal or gas BBQ until smoking. Place the portobellos on the unlit side and cover. Let cook for 15-20 minutes.
- Remove the portobellos and top with avocado slices, pickled red onions, fresh cilantro and crumbled cheese. Serve immediately with beer.