Last weekend, our busy summer continued with a quick trip to Massachusetts. My husband hadn’t been back since our wedding about 15 months ago. To fill you in, I grew up in MA and my family still lives there. My husband and I also lived there together for a few years before we moved to California, so we have many loved ones around the South Shore. If only we had time to see them all! (Just an excuse to go back again…)
One of our best friends had her 30th birthday party, an all-day affair that started by the pool, moved on to margarita machines & tacos on the porch and then the hot tub at night. The rest of our short weekend was spent mainly on the back porch of my childhood home, grilling and enjoying adult beverages, while watching my niece and nephew swam with our family’s two Labrador retrievers.
It was a perfect July weekend in New England, spent nearly entirely outdoors and fairly unplugged from the world.
One thing that got drilled into my mind was how much I want a backyard when we move. We live in a gorgeous, contemporary townhouse that is a block from a park and walking distance to shopping, groceries, restaurants and more. I love it, trust me, but the one compromise was not having our own private outdoor space.
I want a backyard. I want my dog to have her own space. I want to grow herbs and vegetables. I want a pool, whether in-ground or inflatable. Most importantly, I want a grill! I know my husband agrees, too.
For the time being, I rely on my Cuisinart griddle/grill/panini miracle machine, which is what I used last night when I decided I wanted to have a cook out in my kitchen.
I made my husband shuck it.
I have a serious obsession for corn on the cob in the summertime, and cheesy Mexican street corn is a huge fad here in California. Once you try it, there’s no going back. I love it so much, I decided to use the flavors to inspire a chicken marinade to make a complete meal… an extremely quick and easy meal, I might add.
For the chicken:
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp garlic powder
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/8 cup honey
- 1 lime, zested & juiced
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce (optional)
- Combine salt, pepper, chili powder, smoked paprika and garlic powder and rub generously on both sides of the chicken.
- Whisk together the olive oil, honey, lime zest & juice, and hot sauce. Pour over the chicken in a bowl, cover and marinate for an hour or two.
- Cook the chicken on the grill over medium heat for about 10-12 minutes on each side, turning only once, until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F. (Same practice for a grill pan indoors.) Use any extra marinade to brush on the chicken as it cooks.
For the corn:
- 4 ears of corn, shucked and cleaned
- 1/4 cup Mexican crema or mayonnaise
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 3-4 oz Cotija cheese
- 1 lime, zested & cut into slices for garnish
- Grill the corn over medium heat for 15-20 minutes, turning occassionally, until tender.
- Meanwhile, in a small bowl or dish, mix together the crema or mayo with the smoked paprika and chili powder. Crumble the cheese onto a large plate or a piece of parchment paper.
- When the corn is cooked, brush on the crema mixture generously on all sides and roll it in the cheese. Sprinkle with lime zest, and if you choose, an extra dash of chili powder.
- Serve the corn along with the chicken, and give the whole dish a nice spritz of fresh lime juice at the end.
This serves two people, but it’s essentially just a couple of sauces, so it’s not hard to double or quadruple up. Can we talk about how super easy this is? It’s simply taking a piece of chicken, a couple pieces of corn and using fun flavors to make them exciting.
I always have a jar of leftover Mexican crema in the fridge after taco night, so I used that instead of mayonnaise, which is popular. If you don’t have enough of either, sour cream is another option. Often times street corn is made with a mixture of mayo and crema or sour cream, so really, use what you have. It’s essentially just the glue to hold on all the good stuff.
I love Cotija cheese. It’s a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese and it’s really easy to find in stores. I get it from Whole Foods or even Target. It’s similar to Parmesan, but don’t substitute that stuff in the plastic tube for Cotija. Go get the good stuff. Use it in salads. Use it in tacos. Make cheesy street corn every night because it’s summer and you can do what you want.
Trust me. COTIJA.
For the chicken, I wanted to mimic the flavors of the corn with a simple marinade that I made straight from items in my pantry. It can be made in advance, just like the crema mixture for the corn, so when it’s time for the meal, you throw everything on the grill and get it done in 20 minutes. It’s perfect for a party or perfect for a relaxed week night dinner.
A digital thermometer is a must-have. (Unless you enjoy dry chicken.)
This recipe has a lot of cooking options. Obviously, on the grill is the preferred way, but I had to settle for my indoor grill set-up. If you don’t have either of those things, I really wouldn’t be mad at you if you boiled the corn and prepared the chicken in a hot skillet. There’s no excuse to not try this delicious meal out for yourself.
If anyone has any grilling tips or brand recommendations to share, I’m taking notes already. Mark my words, next summer I’ll be sharing grill recipes from my own backyard! Until then, I’ll keep improvising.