Much like mac and cheese or mashed potatoes, there is much comfort to be gleaned from knowing that there is a piping-hot pan of this awaiting you in the oven.
When directly translated from Spanish, elote means cob, as in corn on the cob. It is also, and possibly more, widely known as a Mexican street food. As a young adult, living in Los Angeles, one of the men in my neighborhood would sell elote, a popular Mexican street-food. Everyone in the neighborhood knew him as the “elote-man”. Every day, after his workday, he would load a cart with a monstrous stock-pot full of sweet corn-on-the-cob. And like clockwork, he’d push his cart through the neighborhood while occasionally yelling out, “ELOTEEEEEE!” Many of our neighbors, adults and children, would run out to the cart to enjoy his offerings. Each sunshine-yellow corn on the cob, which was pierced with a thick wooden skewer that served as a handle, was generously covered with the embellishments, such as Parmesan, butter, chili powder, lime and Cotija, a crumbly and wonderfully salty Mexican cheese.
Nostalgia served me well in the development of this recipe, which would be a fantastic lunch or dinner side dish. I’d like to think that even the elote-man would approve.
Elote-Inspired Baked Polenta
Serves up to 4-6
- 3 cups water
- 2 ½ cups milk
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 ½ cup polenta
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon chili powder, plus extra for sprinkling
- 2 cups frozen corn
- ¼ cup Parmesan
- 2/3 cup cream cheese
- 8 ounces Cotija or Feta cheese, divided
- ½ cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
- wedges of lime, for serving
Preheat the oven to 350° F (176°C).
Place the milk and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the milk mixture begins to boil, whisk in the polenta, sea salt, black pepper, and 1 teaspoon of the chili powder. Reduce the heat to medium and whisk occasionally. The stovetop cook time will largely depend on your polenta. I buy a 10-minute quick-cook polenta, which I cook on the stovetop for 5 minutes, after which the rest of the cooking is done while it bakes in the oven. If you’re using a slow-cook polenta, which could take up to 30 minutes to cook, I would cook it for 10 minutes on the stovetop and then bake it for 20 minutes in the oven.
Once the 5 or 10 minutes is up, depending again on your polenta, add the frozen corn, Parmesan and Cotija or Feta, and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Next, spread the polenta into a greased pan (I often use an 8 x 10” baking dish, but I’ve also used a 12” skillet with success). Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and dust with remaining chili powder and sprinkle with cilantro. Serve hot with wedge of lime.
Sour cream would be a great condiment to serve with this dish.