This may be the most singular grilled corn you’ve ever eaten. I first tasted it at the Maxwell Street Market near the Mexican-American neighborhood of Pilsen in Chicago. Mayonnaise, cheese, and corn may seem like strange bedfellows—you’ll just have to trust me that the combination tastes better than it sounds. The dish is wonderfully interactive: You and your guests get to slather and season your corn however you please.
Step 1: Shuck the corn, stripping the husk back as though you were peeling a banana, but leaving the husk attached at the stem end (leave the stem on). Holding an ear of the corn in one hand, gather the husk together so that it covers the stem and then tie it with a piece of butcher’s string. This forms a sort of handle. Remove the corn silk. Repeat with the remaining ears of corn.
Step 2: Place the mayonnaise, cheese, chile powder, and lime wedges in small attractive bowls. Have these ingredients ready on the table, along with butter knives for spreading the mayonnaise.
Step 3: Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.
Step 4: When ready to cook, arrange the corn on the hot grate so that the husks hang over the edge of the grill (this keeps them from burning) or place a folded sheet of aluminum foil under the husks to shield them. Grill the corn until nicely browned on all sides, 2 to 3 minutes per side (8 to 12 minutes in all), turning with tongs.
Step 5: Transfer the grilled corn to a platter. To serve, tell everyone to spread mayonnaise on the corn, then, working over a plate or the platter, sprinkle the ears with cheese and chile powder. Squeeze lime juice to taste over the corn and eat the kernels right off the cob.
The traditional cheese for Mexican-style grilled corn is Cotija—a hard, tangy, sourish cheese with a flavor similar to Greek feta. You can find it at Mexican grocery stores or specialty food shops, or perhaps at your local supermarket. Feta, Romano, or Parmesan cheese can all be used instead.