Fresh Off the Grid is composed of a Michael van Vliet and Megan McDuffie: intrepid road warriors, national park aficionados, and backcountry chefs extraordinaire. In August 2015 they quit their jobs, sold most of their possessions, and hit the road. From time to time they’ll  be serving us up recipes and inspiration from a life well-traveled. Read below for their take on Elote, also referred to as “Mexican Grilled Corn.”

Everyone knows what to do with a campfire after dinner (duh! s’mores!) but what to do with a campfire before dinner is less obvious. Standing around and occasionally poking the fire with a stick is certainly a fine way to pass the time, but there a lot of good campfire appetizers that can hold people over until the main meal arrives. So address this lull in the evening’s itinerary, we’d like to suggest elote, or Mexican grilled corn.

Now it might be tempting to dismiss elote as “just” grilled corn, but we would beg to differ. When done properly it can be so much more. In the US, we tend to spread some butter on our corn and call it a day. But in Mexico, elote is all about the toppings. Which is precisely what makes this such a perfect pre-dinner activity. There’s nothing like a build-your-own appetizer to bring everyone together.

While the dish varies from region to region, traditional elote toppings can include: salt, chili powder, butter, cheese, lemon juice, lime juice, mayonnaise, and sour cream. Mix and match. Put as much or as little as you want on it. There really isn’t a wrong way to do it.

We made this batch while camping in Joshua Tree National Park. The desert air was pretty cool as the sun went down, so we were happy to huddle up around the fire. Since we were sitting around it anyways, we figured we might as well be cooking something. So we broke out the corn and toppings and got to work.

For our particular recipe, we combined our spices with some mayonnaise that we whipped up in the field (more on that below). We then added a spritz of lime juice, chopped cilantro, and crumbled bits of cotija cheese. When combined together, it was nearly enough to be a meal all on its own!

So the next time you’re heading out camping, consider packing along some corn for a campfire elote session. Get the excitement of grilling something over the fire without waiting until the end of the night.


(Makes 4), 15 minutes total

4 ears of corn, outside leaves and silk fibers removed (leave the stem on, if possible)

½ cup mayo (store bought or homemade – see recipe below)

1 teaspoon New Mexico chili powder

½ cup crumbled cotija cheese

Handful fresh cilantro, chopped

1 lime cut into quarters

Salt to taste

Place the corn on a hot grill. Cook 8-10 minutes, turning occasionally, until the corn is charred in spots and cooked through.

In the meantime, prep the spiced mayo by combining ½ cup mayo with 1 teaspoon New Mexico chili powder. Set aside.

To assemble, spread some of the mayo over all sides of the corn. Coat in the cotija cheese, cilantro, and finish with a squeeze of lime and some salt. Enjoy immediately while still hot!

Homemade Mayo

We don’t always have mayo in our cooler while camping, but we usually have eggs and olive oil, so we can always make a small batch of mayo should the need arise. Making it is a good arm workout, so if you go with store bought, we won’t judge!

1 egg yolk

½ cup olive or canola oil (the lighter the flavor the better)

Pinch of salt

Squeeze of lime
Place the egg yolk, salt, and lime in a bowl and whisk briefly with a fork to break the yolk. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil – as close to one drop at a time as you can manage – while quickly whisking continuously, until an emulsion forms and the sauce really starts to thicken up. Once you get to this stage, you can add the oil in a slow and steady stream until it’s all incorporated. The whole process takes about 6 minutes.

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Featured Styles: Women’s Dharma , Men’s Flip Ecotread


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