The general bar snack philosophy—that is, serving something salty enough to require the order of another drink—is the oldest trick on the menu.
At Chicago restaurant Trenchermen, chef Pat Sheerin makes spiced Corn Nuts that play on the Mexican street food known as elotes, grilled corn on the cob slathered with mayonnaise, rolled in crumbled cheese and seasoned with hot sauce and lime juice.
His elotes-style corn nuts are at once tangy, salty and spicy, a winning snack food trifecta. “They’re really good alongside Gin and Tonics,” notes Sheerin, “because the lime in the drink accentuates the lime flavor in the corn nuts.” He also favors pairing the corn nuts with Bloody Marys, which the Trencherman bartenders make with gin instead of vodka, and Micheladas.
To make the crackable, snackable bites, large Corn Nuts are tossed with chile oil, buttermilk powder, smoky paprika and grated Parmesan cheese, then zapped with lime zest. Like the best snacks, they have a finger-staining quality and down-home appeal. Sheerin says they’re irresistible. “Put a bowl of these out and they disappear.”