As someone who blogs, one of my favorite things to do is peruse restaurant menus to notice food trends. We’ve all seen how one ingredient snowballs into a plethora of options for diners.
Kale became the go to salad base, cauliflower started being cooked whole and Brussels sprouts were being shared everywhere.
I think corn is having its moment right now thanks to the Mexican classic street corn known as elote. Elote are grilled or boiled corn on the cob smeared generously with thick creamy mayonnaise, crumbly cojita cheese, tart lime juice and a kick of chile powder or Tajin. This perfect concoction has become the darling of every food truck and gastropub around. My mouth just waters thinking about it. (FYI… if you are served a cup of corn it is called esquites.)
A couple of months ago, I was moderating one of my favorite virtual Chopping Block classes that featured elotes as one of the menu recipes and had a lightbulb moment... why don’t I make a “board” next time I have company and let people create their own a-maize-ing dish? I could put out all sorts of ingredients and let the corncobs roll! (Here is another good Mexican Corn recipe.)
When making a board of any sort, you’ve got to plan ahead. The first thing I realized is that this was going to be much bigger than the standard board... it was literally a cornucopia! I may have gotten carried away. I had the space to spread so people could have a little space to reach for ingredients without knocking each other over or making the table messy.
Stations had to be made utilizing the building blocks that I already know work on trend-worthy corn. I wanted my guests to smear, crumble, crunch, sprinkle and season their corn to their heart’s content but I didn’t want them to load their corn up like they were at a build your own Bloody Mary bar.
You don’t have to limit yourself to traditional elote ingredients. Think of flavor profiles (salty, sour, spicy, umami) which all showcase the sweetness of corn.
The station mentality is a great way to organize your table and helps your guests focus on making corn on the cob that is memorable.
Shop your Pantry First
One of the best parts is that unlike a cheese or charcuterie board, a corn board will not break the bank. Corn on the cob is inexpensive, especially in the summer! And with any board, search your cupboards before you shop. You never know what inspiration is lurking behind a cabinet door.
To gauge how much you need, I have about 1 cup of ingredients per every 8 people. That allows for about 2 tablespoons of topping. You may want extra of the items that tend to be more popular like bacon and cheese.
The key to making this enjoyable for you and your guests is to have the ingredients make sense so there really can be no mistakes. (In other words, don’t put out peanut butter and jelly just to see if someone uses it! Food is fun but let’s not make this silly corn valley!)
Themes are Fun
Get thematic if you like and make each section related to a country like Mexico, Italy, Greece, India or Japan. I’ve been known to put up recipe suggestions for these types of food presentations. It really is up to you and the space you have available.
Cook your corn right! It is essentially the star of the show. I was making a lot so I chose to boil it for 4-5 minutes. Half cobs work great so your guests can experiment with some flavors and not commit to an entire piece.
Put out both corn on the cob and a big bowl of corn as an option for the base.
Put some thought into the building vessel you provide on the table so that corncobs don’t start flying around. (This may be how the game cornhole got started.) A plate with some edges or even a hot dog tray may keep it a little neater on the building line. I also found a wooden skewer is much easier for your guests to twirl their corn as they add toppings.
This was a miso butter, furikake, togarashi, green onion bowl. Yum!
Always Be Prepared
Finally, this can get messy. A paper towel roll close by may also be a good thought!
To help get you started, here are some suggestion of items you can have at each “station.”
Station 1: Smear
- Garlic Butter
- Greek Yogurt
- Buffalo Sauce
- Miso Butter
Station 2: Crumbles
- Cojita Cheese
- Blue Cheese
Station 3: Crunch
- Crumbled Tortilla Chips
- Parmesan Crisps
- Pita Chips
- Fried Onions
- Bacon (because we want to keep the corn-nivores happy)
Station 4: Sprinkles
- Lime Wedges
- Basil Leaves
Station 5: Seasonings
- Chile Powder
- Dried Oregano
- Celery Salt
If you really want to get creative on your sauce options, sign up for our virtual Cool Summer Sauces class on Saturday, July 23, 2022 at 2pm CST. You'll make all of these sauces in just two hours:
- Chimichurri (Fresh Herb and Garlic)
- Raita (Cool-Spiced Cucumber and Yogurt)
- Green and Black Olive Tapenade
- Romesco (Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato)
- Mango, Jalapeño and Avocado Salsa
Did you know that virtual classes are recorded? So, if you can’t virtually be at the class at the designated class time, a link to the recording of the class will be sent to you via email. You have a full week to watch at your own leisure!
Plus, if you need some inspiration, The Chopping Block at Lincoln Square (4747 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60625) is open again after going through a beautiful remodel. Hands-on classes are available and you can shop for your corn on the cob table.