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08/17/2016

~ My Deep-Fried Mexican Sweet Street Corn Fritters~

IMG_0075In my kitchen, when one recipe can be turned into a second dish the next day, foodie life is good.  When the second recipe can be turned into a third on yet another day, foodie life is great. When dish number three tastes as good or better than the previous two and none of them make me feel like I am eating leftovers, that's when I take a bow.  This scenario is especially appreciated by me, the family cook, when our fruit trees and vegetable garden is  producing at peak levels.  For example:  I've got lots of prime-quality local sweet corn at my fingertips now.

IMG_0086^The trifecta of Mexican street corn:  Mexican corn fritters.^

Here in Pennsylvania, I grew up eating savory deep-fried corn fritters in July and August (when local sweet corn is in season) and sweet apple fritters in September and October (when local apples are in season).  I grew up eating potato pancakes as well, which are technically a type of fritter, but, we don't refer to them as such because they are pan-fried.  Doughnuts were/are made on Doughnut Day, and, even though they're deep-fried, we don't call them fritters either. Why? Like their precursor cousin, the beignet, they don't contain any chopped protein, fresh or dried fruits and/or vegetables, and, with or without holes, they're just plain old deep-fried dough.

IMG_0062Fritters are deep-fried.  Fritters contain protein, fruit or veggies.

A bit about fritters:  Defined as small, sweet or savory, deep-fried (not pan fried), dough- or batter-based cakes (fritters contain no bread or bread crumbs) made by combining chopped food (not whole pieces or chunks) with a thick, seasoned batter, dropped into hot oil and deep-fried until crisp on the outside and cooked-through on the inside. Depending on the consistency of the batter, fritters can emerge flat (like pancakes) or round (like golf balls).  Once chopped, almost anything can be made into a fritter:  meat, poultry, fish, seafood, fruits or vegetables.  

Fritters can be served for breakfast, lunch or dinner, as a snack, side-dish, main-course or dessert.  Fritters are sold on street corners and in five-star restaurants where they can be picked up and eaten with the hand or eaten with a fork.  Fritters are the original fast food and pub grub. Fritters are multi-cultural -- you can find a fritter anywhere in the world where they deep-fry food.

You can find fritters anywhere in the world where they deep-fry food. 

IMG_9971 IMG_9972Mexico is no exception, and, while I have a host of sweet corn recipes in my repertoire, this year I decided to explore the world of Mexican sweet corn recipes -- after all, who really knows more about corn than the Mexican culture?  They eat, drink and enjoy corn in every way imaginable. 

IMG_0038First I made ~ Classic Grilled Mexican Sweet Street Corn (Elotes) ~.  I followed it up by making ~ Warm Mexican Sweet Street Corn Cups (Esquites) ~.  I have four cups of leftover esquites in my refrigerator today, and, I'm doing with it what my Mexican-born San Antonio-based girlfriend Toni taught me to do with it -- make fritters, "comida frita", which simply means "food that is fried".

The detailed recipes can both be found by clicking on the Related Article links below, but, since you indeed need to make esquites to make comida frita, I'm including the important part of my recipe for esquites here for you.  If you use your own recipe, it goes without saying, you may need to adjust the amount of flour needed, not to mention amp up the seasonings a bit too.

Remove husk, silk & trim 6 large cobs of sweet corn.

IMG_0822IMG_0837IMG_0838IMG_0842IMG_9998~Step 1.  In an 8-quart stockpot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons sugar to water. One-at-a-time, lower the corn into the water. When the water returns to a boil, simmer the corn for 5 minutes. While the corn is simmering, use a pair of tongs to dunk the tops down into the water. Do not overcook -- the kernels are going to cook a second time in a few minutes.  Using the tongs, remove the corn to a large plate and set aside until corn can be easily handled with your hands, about 20-30 minutes.

6a0120a8551282970b01b7c6ce352f970bStep 2.  When the corn has cooled to the point where you can comfortably hold it with your hands, it's time to shave the kernels from the cobs.  This is quite easy.  For details and tips, click into Category 4, 15 or 20 to read my post ~ How to:  Shave Corn Off the Cob with No Mess!!! ~.  Note: Corn shaving is not a precise sport.  Three large cobs will yield about 1 1/2-2 cups shaved corn kernels.  Six cobs, about 3-4 cups, and so on.

Shave kernels from boiled or grilled corn & make a quick sauce.

It's worth mentioning, there are as many recipes for esquites as there are cooks, and, many do not take the time to make this or any sauce to stir into the sautéed corn.  They simply add some mayonnaise, crumbled cojita, garnish with lime juice, chile powder, salt and call it a day.  It's easier and it is ok, but, that is not the way I was taught to make esquites (by Mexican born, San Antonio-based girlfriend Toni).  Her recipe is perfect -- her esquites is "off the hook cob" elotes.

IMG_00021/2  cup Mexican crema (or sour cream)

1/2  cup mayonnaise

3/4-1  teaspoon ancho, chipotle or guajillo chile powder + additional chile powder for garnish 

IMG_9930Epazote-3003/4-1  teaspoon dried, crushed epazote leaves (Note:  "Eehp-ah-ZOH-teh" is a pungent, uniquely-flavored leafy herb that grows wild in the United States and Mexico and has been used in Mexican cuisine for thousands of years dating back to the Aztecs.  Its distinctive flavor cannot be replaced by other herbs, so, if you don't have access to it, its simply better to leave it out.  In the Mexico, fresh leaves are available everywhere all year round.  Here in the USA, dried is all I can ever find, and I keep them on hand in my pantry.  1 teaspoon dried = 7 leaves or 1 stem)

1/4  teaspoon sea salt

2  garlic cloves, run through a press

1/2  cup minced fresh cilantro leaves, no stems included, 1/4  cup for stirring into sauce and 1/4  cup for garnish

2  teaspoons lime zest from 1 lime

2 tablespoons lime juice from 1 lime

IMG_99363/4  cup finely-crumbled cotija cheese, or, 1/2 cup crumbled queso fresco cheese tossed with 4 tablespoons finely-grated Parmesan cheese (Note:  "Coh-CHEE-ha" cheese, a Mexican cow's milk cheese, can be hard to find.  Its texture is similar to feta, but it doesn't taste quite like feta.  It is, however, affectionately referred to as "Mexican Parmesan" because its flavor is very similar to fresh Italian Parmesan.

6a0120a8551282970b01630627a618970dQueso fresco cheese is a Mexican cow's milk cheese which is common in authentic Tex/Mex dishes.  It's a fresh cheese, similar to feta, with a shelf life of about 5 days.  When placed on top of a dish, or stirred into it, it softens rather than melts, and, with enough heat becomes slightly creamy.  When queso freso is tossed with a a bit of Parmesan, it's a great texture and flavor substitution for hard-to-find cotija.)  

IMG_9948IMG_9951In a medium bowl, stir together the crema, mayonnaise, your choice of chile powder, dried epazote, salt, garlic, 1/4 cup of the cilantro, lime zest, lime juice and 6 tablespoons of crumbled cheese (a hand-held box grater works really well for crumbling cotija or queso fresco).

Note:  Sauce can be made a day ahead and refrigerated.  Return to room temperature prior to using.

Sauté the corn, first to brown in oil, second to flavor in butter.

Important note -- read before proceeding with recipe:  If using grilled corn kernels instead of boiled corn kernels, no problem.  Skip the step of browning the boiled kernels in oil, simply melt the butter in the skillet, add the grilled kernels and proceed with recipe as directed.

IMG_00043 1/2-4  cups cooked corn kernels

enough vegetable oil to lightly-coat a 10" skillet

4  tablespoons salted butter

1/2  cup finely-diced sweet onion

1  minced serrano pepper or jalapeño pepper

1  teaspoon dried epazote leaves

1/4  teaspoon salt

reserved crumbled cotija & minced cilantro (from above prep)

chile powder & lime wedges, for garnish

IMG_0006IMG_0008IMG_0014IMG_0018IMG_0019IMG_0021~Step 1.  Heat a thin coating of vegetable oil in a 10" skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the corn and sauté, stirring often but not constantly, until corn is developing golden brown spots, about 4-5 minutes.  Adust heat to low, add the butter, and stir until butter has melted.  Add the onion, minced chile pepper, epazote and salt.  Adjust heat to medium-high and sauté until onion is softening but still has some crunch to it, 2-3 minutes.  

IMG_0023IMG_0025IMG_0028Step 2.  Remove pan from heat and allow to cool about 5-10 minutes. Add the reserved 6 tablespoons of crumbled cotija cheese and 1/4 minced cilantro.  Give the mixture a thorough stir.  Begin adding sauce, 1/2 cup at a time, until the desired flavor and consistency is reached.  I added 1 cup today, and, how much sauce to add depends on how many actual cups of cooked corn kernels there were to begin with.  Portion into bowls and garnish each portion with a sprinkling of chile powder and a lime wedge or two.  Serve remaining sauce at tableside.  It is common for folks to dollop and stir additional crema or mayonnaise into their own portion -- the sauce is better than either.

Mix the fritter batter & deep-fry the fritters.

IMG_00404  cups esquites, preferably refrigerated overnight and returned to room temperature

1  cup + 6 tablespoons flour

1  teaspoon baking powder

1/2  teaspoon each: sugar and sea salt

3/4  cup whole milk

2 extra large eggs

IMG_0052~ Step 1.  Place the esquites in a large bowl and set aside.  In a 1-quart measuring container, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt.  In a 1-cup measuring container, whisk together the eggs and milk.  Whisk the liquid ingredients into the dry ingredients to form a thick slow-drizzling batter.  You will have about 4 cups of batter.  Using a rubber spatula, fold 2 cups of  IMG_0054batter into the esquites.

IMG_0948~ Step 2. Continue folding batter into corn mixture until a loose, sticky mixture has formed and stop when it does.  How much batter you use depends on the amount of esquites.  I had 1/2 cup of batter leftover.  Fritter batter is not formable, it is spoonable.

Note:  If you've never made fritters and are in doubt, error on the side of less batter and fry one fritter as a test.  If it holds together you've got enough batter.  If it doesn't, add a bit more batter.

IMG_0056~ Step 3.  Preheat peanut or corn oil in deep-fryer to 360 degrees, according to manufacturer's specifications.  Using a 1 1/2" ice-cream scoop as a measure, drop 4 loose scoops (do not press into scoop) of batter down into the fryer basket which is submerged in the oil (do not place scoops directly onto dry fry basket).  Fry for 1 minute. Lift lid and shake basket to loosen any stuck fritters.  Fry until golden, 1 1/2-2 more minutes.

Transfer fritters to a wire rack that has been placed atop a few layers of paper towels and sprinkle with a grinding of sea salt.  Continue frying in batches of four until all fritters are fried.

Note:  To make fritters a day ahead, after deep-frying, cool them to room temperature.  Place on a plate, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.  Remove from refrigerator and return to room temperature, 1-2 hours.  Place fritters on a rack inserted in a baking pan and reheat on center rack of 400 degree oven for 8-9 minutes.  Trust me, they will crisp up beautifully!

IMG_0064Last, stir together this quick & easy dipping & drizzling sauce.

IMG_4369For the Sriracha-infused crema:

1/2  cup crema or sour cream

1/4  cup Sriracha hot sauce

IMG_4368Step 1.  In a small bowl combine crema and Sriracha.  If you have a squirt bottle, the kind used to dispense salad dressings, transfer the mixture to it -- it makes drizzling the fritters mess free.

Drizzle w/sauce, a sprinkle of cotija cheese, cilantro & squirt of lime:

IMG_0089My Deep-Fried Mexican Sweet Street Corn Fritters:  Recipe yields 24-28 fritters and 3/4 cup Sriracha-infused crema for dipping or drizzling.

Special Equipment List:  8-quart stockpot; tongs; chef's knife; cutting board; garlic press; microplane grater; hand-held box grater; large spoon; 10" skillet, preferably not nonstick; whisk; 1-quart measuring container; 1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula, 1 3/4" ice-cream scoop; deep-fryer; wire cooling rack; paper towels

IMG_4517Cook's Note:  If you don't mind eating two deep-fried items at once (it's indeed an indulgence) my recipe for ~ Beer-Batter-Dipped Deep-Fried Cod-Fish Tacos ~ goes great with two or three of these corn fritters. Just click into Category 2, 3, 13, 14 or 17 to get the recipe.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2016)

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