I really don’t know why it took me this long, but I finally made popcorn on the stove a couple of weeks ago for the first time. It was so easy! Ever since, I have been searching for different types of toppings. I came across a recipe for Popcorn Tacos in A Modern Way to Eat. It was such an interesting concept. I had never thought or heard of adding popcorn to tacos before.
These Popcorn Tacos are perfect for enjoying fresh corn with summer quickly approaching. The tacos incorporate corn in three different ways with three different textures. Corn tortillas are filled with a fresh Mexican Esquites-style corn salad with charred poblano and bell pepper, then topped with popcorn tossed in taco seasonings. It is finished off with a drizzle of honey and crumbled Cotija cheese.
To add a bit more taco flavor, I tossed the freshly popped popcorn in taco seasonings. Use store-bought or you can make your own. The popcorn can be made up to a couple of days in advance and stored in an airtight container. As the kernels are popping, vigorously shake the pot a few times to keep the unpopped kernels at the bottom and prevent the popped ones from burning.
Esquites is the Mexican street food version of a corn salad. When the kernels stay on the cob, they are known as Elote. I baked the corn in the oven still wrapped in their husks. You can also use the grill, but it had been raining here for a week straight (and shows no sign of stopping). I then unwrapped the corn and charred them lightly under the broiler along with the red bell pepper and poblano. I recently found this tip for using a bundt pan to help cut the corn from the cob. It has made such a difference in preventing the corn kernels from flying everywhere. I tossed the corn with the skinned and chopped peppers in a creamy sauce seasoned with a little cayenne and lime juice. This salad was Chad’s favorite part and also quite delicious on its own as a snack or side dish.
Cotija is a white cow’s milk cheese from Mexico with a strong, salty flavor. It is named after the town of Cotija in Michoacán. When fresh, it is similar in consistency to feta cheese. It becomes more firm and crumbly with age. I have been able to find it in the specialty cheese section of larger grocery stores or in international markets with a Mexican section. If you are unable to find it, Feta or Pecorino Romano may be used as a substitute.
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/4 cup popcorn kernels
1 tablespoon taco seasonings
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 fresh corn on the cob
1 poblano pepper
1 red bell pepper
1/3 cup Mexican crema or creme fraiche
1/3 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup Cotija cheese or Feta
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Juice from 1 lime
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice from 1/2 lime
8 corn tortillas, homemade or store-bought
Cotija or Feta cheese
Honey for drizzling
Roughly chopped fresh cilantro
To make the popcorn: Place the coconut oil in a large pot with about 3 of the popcorn kernels. Cover and place over medium heat. Once you hear one of the kernels pop, add the remaining kernels and quickly cover. Cook, shaking the pot often, until you start to hear a lag between the popping of about 3 seconds. Remove from heat and allow to rest with the lid on until you no longer hear popping. Add the taco seasonings and toss to coat. Season with salt. Store in an airtight container until ready to use for up to 2 days.
To make the Esquites: Cook the corn in the husk on the grill or in a 350 degree F oven until tender, 15-20 minutes on the grill or about 30 minutes in the oven.
Place the poblano pepper and red bell pepper whole on a baking sheet. Place on the top rack of the oven and turn on the broiler. Cook until char marks appear, then turn to char all sides. If desired, lightly char the cooked corn. Remove from the oven and place the peppers in a bowl tightly covered with plastic wrap or plastic bag. Allow to rest for 10-20 minutes or until the skin is easy to peel off. Remove the skin, then the stems and seeds. Roughly chop into 1/2 inch pieces and place in a large bowl. Once cool enough to handle, remove the husks and silk from the corn. Cut the kernels off the cob and add to the chopped peppers. Stir in the crema, mayonnaise, Cotija cheese, cayenne pepper, and lime juice. Season with salt and pepper.
To assemble: Cut the avocados in half. Remove the pits and peel. Roughly chop into about 1/2 inch pieces. Place in a small bowl and toss with the juice from 1/2 lime.
Heat the corn tortillas in a dry skillet or the oven until pliable. They can also be heated lightly in the microwave covered with a damp cloth. Serve immediately topped with the elote, the popcorn, avocado, additional Cotija cheese, a drizzle of honey, and sprinkle of cilantro.