Why this recipe works:
To achieve maximum charring without drying out the corn, we grilled husked corn directly on the grates over a very hot fire. Coating the corn with oil and chili powder gave it spice and prevented it from sticking to the grill. A mixture of sour cream and mayonnaise proved a good substitute for hard-to-find crema in the sauce used to coat the cooked corn in this authentic-tasting grilled corn recipe.
NOTE: If you can find queso fresco or Cotija, use either in place of the Pecorino Romano.
Vegetable oil for cooking grate
1/4 cup regular mayonnaise
3 tablespoons sour cream
3 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium garlic clove, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 1 teaspoon)
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
4 teaspoons juice from 1 lime
1 ounce Pecorino Romano, grated (about 1/2 cup) (see note)
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt or 1/4 teaspoon table salt
6 large ears corn, husks and silk removed
1. Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal (6 quarts, about 100 briquettes) and allow to burn until coals are fully ignited and partially covered with thin layer of ash, about 20 minutes. Arrange all coals in even layer over half of grill, leaving other half empty. Position cooking grate over coals, cover grill, and heat grate until hot, about 5 minutes; scrape grate clean with grill brush. Dip wad of paper towels in vegetable oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate.
2. While grill is heating, combine mayonnaise, sour cream, cilantro, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, black pepper, cayenne (if using), lime juice, and cheese in large bowl; set aside. In second large bowl, combine oil, salt, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon chili powder; add corn and toss until coated evenly.
3. Grill corn over coals, turning occasionally, until lightly charred on all sides, 7 to 12 minutes total. Remove from grill and place in bowl with mayonnaise mixture; toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately.