Smoky, Earthy and Salty, This Chipotle Corn Is Accompanied by Simple, Fresh Ingredients. This Budget Friendly Salad Is Easy to Make and Fantastic for Those Warmer Months as You Host A Casual Alfresco Lunch with Family and Friends.
My Italian Parmesan Experience
I was inspired to make chipotle corn after our amazing trip to Italy. When we were in Florence, we went on a dairy tour in Reggio Emilia, about an hour by train north. I was intrigued by how Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano as the Italians refer to it, was made. And there was no better place to learn than to go to the best dairy in Reggio Emilia where they had won the accolade out of 320 competing dairies.
We met Mario, the cheesemaker of over 40 years. A charming and charismatic man who clearly loved his profession. He was aided by his second in charge who had been making cheese for 22 years. That’s quite the apprenticeship!
The process of making Parmigiano Reggiano doesn’t start in the diary itself. It actually starts where they grow the grass. The quality of grass is important as it is fodder for their 250 dairy cows that produce the milk to make the best cheese in the region.
I won’t go into the exact details of the entire process but I will mention some highlights.
The first step of making Parmigiano Reggiano is called elaboration. This is the process of actually making the cheese. Every day, the milk from the dairy farm is left to rest overnight so that the fatty part rises to the top and only the skimmed milk is used. Calf rennet and fermented whey is added to the milk and curd slowly forms.
The cooking process reaches about 55°C (131°F) and these cheesy granules sink to the bottom of the cauldron and forms one big mass. After around 50 minutes, the mass is cut in half, wrapped in a cheese cloth and placed inside a mold. After a few days, they are then placed in a massive vat of salt-saturated and water solution for about a month.
It is also said that after the cheese is removed from the cauldron, the liquid leftover has healing, medicinal and anti-ageing properties. Many elderly people would come by with buckets to collect this solution so that they can soak their aching feet or legs. We were invited to wash our arms and face with the water and our tour guide jokingly told us he was actually 103 years old!
The next step of the process is maturation. The 8 of us were told to stand in a line, place our hands on the shoulders of the person in front of us and close our eyes. We shuffled into the maturation room with great expectations. When we got inside, we were told to take a deep breath and the pungent odours of the parmesan was intoxicating!
He then flicked the lights on and I gasped in absolute wonder. It is quite a sight to be confronted by floor to ceiling high shelves with hundreds and thousands of cheese wheels.
As parmesan is a hard cheese, mold cannot be allowed to form on its outer casing. To avoid this from happening, each wheel is removed from the shelf every 4-5 days, brushed and turned before it is placed back on the shelf. The minimum maturation time is 12 months. So, if you do the math, that is a monumental task!
At the 12-month mark, a cheese grader comes to check on its quality and whether it is worthy enough to be sold. Using a small hammer, the cheese grader would knock on the cheese, listening out for anomalies. A wheel that is imperfect is said to have holes and therefore would produce a hollow sound in certain spots. These wheels are then marked to signify its inferior quality and usually sold at a very cheap price.
I was invited to knock on the cheese and as I am a cheese grader extraordinaire, I deemed it to be perfect! Clearly, I had no idea what I was doing! LOL!
Of the thousands of wheels at this dairy, there were only 8 wheels that didn’t pass the test. That’s incredible!
We were invited to taste the 12, 24- and 36-month Parmigiano Reggiano. The difference in intensity was remarkably distinct. The 24-month Parmigiano Reggiano was my favourite with the 36-month cheese simply too strong for my liking.
I walked away in complete awe of the whole process and the immense pride this dairy had in their cheese. It sure is hard work, without a day of rest throughout the year. At the start of the tour I was told that we would never look at Parmesan the same again by the end of the day and he was right.
What is Chipotle Pepper?
Chipotle pepper is smoked, dried jalapeno.
Perhaps you may not have eaten chipotle pepper on its own or in its actual form but no doubt you would have come across it as a sauce, particularly in adobo sauce or as I have used in this recipe, it’s mixed in with mayonnaise. You may have also come across it in powder form, in pods or as a marinade for meats.
Chipotle is a Spanish word as it originally hails from Mexico. In fact, the name comes from the Nahuatl word “chīlpoctli”, which means “smoked chili” of which it is a practice dating as far back as the Aztecs. The jalapenos were smoked as a preservative measure so that it would last longer.
The jalapeno peppers are left on the vine to ripen past their maturation stage. This causes the peppers to dry out and, in the process, also become spicier. As the green jalapenos become red throughout this process, they are then picked for smoking. And much like smoking meats, they are smoked in a chamber and turned numerous times to ensure the smoke penetrates the entire jalapeno.
Why I Love Parmesan Chipotle Corn Salad with Black Beans
This Mexican inspired chipotle corn salad satisfied a craving I had for a salsa like side dish. And I was also wanting an excuse to use the Parmesan cheese I had brought back all the way from Reggio Emilia in Italy.
The grilled corn coated in the parmesan and chipotle mayo is packed with flavour and I could honestly just eat that on its own. In fact, you can! You can push a skewer through the middle of the cob, brush it with chipotle mayo and coat it with grated parmesan cheese.
The salsa mix of sublime fresh ingredients and the added tartness from the lime juice just rounds out this combination so well.
How to Make Parmesan Chipotle Corn Salad with Black Beans
How to Grill Corn
Remove the outer leaves and silks off the corn. Ensure that all the silks have been removed as best you can. In a medium sized pot, bring water to the boil and then add the corn and boil for 3 minutes.
Remove corn from the pot and pat it dry. Then brush it generously with olive oil before you start grilling. Using a grill pan, bring it to high heat. Place the corn on the pan and grill until the corn starts to char. Remove the corn from the grill pan.
If you don’t have a grill pan, just use a normal fry pan. You can also hold the corn over the open fire of the stove top or even use a blow torch if you have one handy.
How to Coat the Corn
Put the chipotle mayo into a small bowl and using a brush, coat the entire corn.
Place the grated cheese on a flat plate and roll the coated corn on the cheese. Ensure it is coated evenly.
Then cut the corn off the cob and set aside.
How to Prepare the Salad
Remove the skin off the cucumber. Using a shredding peeler, shred the cucumber until you get to the seed. Discard the seeds as it has too much water content for this salad.
Dice the red onion, avocado and cherry tomatoes.
Add the cucumber, red onion, avocado, cherry tomatoes, chopped coriander, black beans and the juice of 1/2 a lime into a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix gently.
How to Assemble the Salad
This is a layering salad. We don’t want to toss the corn with the salsa mix as all the coating will come off the corn and it will just be a big pile of mess.
Place half the salsa in a serving platter then place half the parmesan and chipotle corn on top. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the rest of the salsa on the top and the remaining corn on top again. Season with salt and pepper again.
Select the best-looking corn to be placed on the top as a showpiece.
I absolutely love the simplicity of this salad and it’s perfect for a casual lunch with friends. Also great for outdoor dining as the weather warms up and when the BBQ makes appearance!
More Budget Salad Recipes:
Parmesan Chipotle Corn Salad with Black Beans
- 3 corn
- 1 cucumber
- 1 avocado
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes
- ½ lime, juiced
- ¼ red onion
- 250ml chipotle mayonnaise
- 125g parmesan, grated
- 1 cup black beans
- ½ cup coriander, chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt, to taste
- pepper, to taste
- Remove the outer leaves and silks off the corn. In a medium sized pot, bring water to the boil. Add the corn and boil for 3 minutes.
- Remove the corn from the pot and pat dry. Brush it generously with olive oil. Using a grill pan, bring it to high heat. Place the corn on the pan and grill until the corn starts to char. Remove from grill pan when it is completed.
- Put the chipotle mayo into a small bowl and using a brush, coat the entire corn.
- Place the grated cheese on a flat plate and roll the coated corn on the cheese. Ensure it is coated evenly.
- Then cut the corn off the cob and set aside.
- Remove the skin off the cucumber. Using a shredding peeler, shred the cucumber until you get to the seeds. Discard the seeds.
- Dice the red onion, avocado and cherry tomatoes.
- Add the cucumber, red onion, avocado, cherry tomatoes, chopped coriander, black beans and the juice of 1/2 a lime into a medium sized mixing bowl. Mix gently.
- Place half the salsa in a serving platter.
- Place half the parmesan and chipotle corn on top. Save the best looking corn to be placed in top as a showpiece.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Place the rest of the salsa on the top and the remaining corn on top again.
- Season with salt and pepper again.
- No grill pan or BBQ? You can just char it on a fry pan, hold the corn over the open fire of your stove top or even use a blow torch.
- If you like spicy food, you can add some fresh chilli into the salsa or get the spicy chipotle mayo.
- A great salad for BBQs, alfresco dining or to take to a picnic.
- You can substitute coriander with flat leaf parsley.
- You can add capsicum or bell peppers for added crunch.
- You can substitute black beans with cannellini beans or red kidney beans.
You’re loving this Parmesan Chipotle Corn Salad with Black Beans recipe and now you need ideas for a main course that will pair well with it? Check out these delicious main course recipes for some inspiration.