How about a quick word game with your kids? Start with “corn.” There’s corn on the cob, corn mazes, cornflakes, corndogs, corny jokes. Keep going. You might even hear someone exclaim, “can of corn!” referring to an easy catch at the baseball field.
This summer, I’ve been thinking “Mexican street corn” (elotes), a lightly grilled and slightly charred corn on the cob typically slathered with mayo, rolled in crumbles of tasty cotija (pronounced ko-TEE-hah) cheese and chopped cilantro, then drizzled with fresh lime juice. A dusting of chili powder raises the heat, if you dare.
The mix of flavors is dynamic and will be memorable at your next barbecue. Many street corn recipes call for mixing the add-ons before spreading onto the corn, but I prefer a buffet-style toppings bar to let each guest customize with his or her favorite textures and flavors.
Rather than cooking the husked corn on the outdoor grill, which takes time, skill and space, I opt for boiling it in a big pot on my stove while the main course cooks on the grill. Just before we eat, I set the boiled corn on the empty hot grill until lightly charred on all sides.
MEXICAN CORN FAMILY-STYLE
1/4 cup mayonnaise
3/4 cup cotija cheese, crumbled (substitute with crumbled feta or Parmesan)
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 jalapeno chili, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
Chili powder (optional)
2 limes, cut in wedges
6 ears of fresh sweet corn, shucked
1. Set up the toppings bar next to a stack of dinner plates. Place mayonnaise, cheese, cilantro and chopped chili in bowls. Arrange in a row on a serving table with a shaker of chili powder and plate of cut limes at the end. Set a brush by the mayo.
2. Boil or steam corn until tender.
3. Remove corn from cooking pot, pat dry and set on hot grill. Rotate with tongs for a few minutes.
4. Arrange on a large platter and set by toppings. Invite family and guests to take a dinner plate and begin by brushing the corn with mayonnaise. Press cheese and cilantro into the mayo. Add chilies or sprinkle with chili powder if desired, then drizzle all over with squeezed lime juice. Serve hot. Serves 6
TIP: For those who prefer eating corn removed from the cob: Secure the end of an ear of corn in the hole of an angel food cake pan. Slice down with a sharp knife to remove the kernels — they will fall directly in the pan.