Guisado de Maíz, Fresh Corn Sauté

“Do the Basics Brilliantly!”

That was the constant mantra of my chef instructor at the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Hinnerk Von Bargen. It was also the oral and lived tradition at home: “pon atención!” I learned care and technique from the “práctica” at my mother’s side and to this day that is my culinary foundation, my compass.  I encountered these important techniques anew but from a different angle in culinary school.

This Guisado de Maíz, is a perfect example of the importance of basic skills:  proper  timing, controlled heat, and just a sprinkle of salt.  That’s it!  You will taste the sweet, lush wonders of  mystic corn.


Maíz, what we call corn, is a divine grain.  By this I mean that it is at the center of sacred stories and is at the core of what it means to be human.  In Mexico, where corn originated and was first cultivated, 7,000 years ago, the view is that our flesh and blood are made of corn.  Founding philosophies and stories of US Native Americans include corn as a central theme.

We call it “elote.” When my amá would make this guisado, sautéed elote for us, she would sit outdoors, peel off the shucks and, with a machete-looking chef’s knife, slice away the kernels from the cob.  She’d make a big batch for us. It was creamy and crunchy at the same time.

Recipe:  (serves 4)
3 ears of Fresh Corn, washed and the kernels sliced off, 2 cups
1 Tbs Canola oil
1/4 tsp Salt
1/2 cup Water

1. Heat a cast iron skillet or other heavy skillet on high heat and add the Canola oil
2. When the oil is very hot and shimmering, add the fresh corn and spread it evenly across the skillet, allowing it to brown a bit. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occassionally.  There will be some popping.
3. Add the water and deglaze the skillet. Heat until the water is almost completely evaporated but the corn is still moist.

That’s it.  Simplicity sometimes can be a revelation!

Buen Provecho.

1.  Historia del Maíz en México, 2012.

2.  Murray Berzok, L. (2005). American indian food. Westport: Greenwood Press.

3. “pon atención” This phrase means “pay attention” but when spoken during home chores the implied meaning was “pay attention to detail, process and context.”

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