Grilled corn slathered with mayo and coated in grated cheese is a well-loved staple of Mexican street fare. Several years ago Gourmet magazine ran a recipe for this tradition using shredded cotija, a crumbly aged-cured Mexican cheese. At the time, it occurred to me that it might be a hit at an American backyard barbecue if the cheese called for in the recipe was good old one-size-fits-all Cheddar. Sure enough, I tried it out on my kids, and they loved it.
The trick with grating the Cheddar—because it tends to gum up—is to make sure it is very cold. In fact, it’s not a bad idea to sock it away in the freezer for 10 minutes. But feel free to experiment with the type of cheese you use and with the flavoring in the mayo—corn goes well with just about anything.
This recipe doubles as a substantial side dish or a great first course to keep the hordes happy while you’re grilling the rest of the meal.
1/2 pound very cold Cheddar cheese
Prepare a charcoal grill and allow the coals to burn down to gray ash. (Alternately, heat an oiled grill pan over medium high heat until almost smoking.) Place the corn on the grill and cook, turning often, until tender and marked on all sides, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix the mayonnaise, garlic, and paprika together in a shallow dish or pie plate. Remove the cheese from the refrigerator and coarsely grate or chop in a food processor until it crumbles into small pieces. Place the cheese in another shallow dish or pie plate and return to the refrigerator to prevent the cheese from becoming too warm and clumpy.
Working with one ear grilled corn at a time, spread the mayonnaise on the corn, then sprinkle on the cheese to coat on all sides. Serve immediately.