Archive for May, 2009

Things to do with cornbread

Posted in Breads, Sides with tags , , , , on May 4, 2009 by Rosalini

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Cornbread is the quintessence of soul food. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s ubiquitous but it is also family and sharing and memories and all of those good things that really good food is a part of.  You can make it healthy(er) or really wonderfully rich with bacon and butter and very sharp cheddar cheese. Buttermilk, sour milk, hushpuppy, pone, fried, spicy, herbed, sweet like cake, savory holiday dressing, muffin or skillet—cornbread diversity, yum. Yep, definitely one of my very favorite foods to cook and to eat, especially with greens or black-eyed-peas seasoned with hot peppers and vinegar. There are cornbread purists of all stripes. I’ve heard all manner of claims about the real deal–that buttermilk is the only way, that you should always use white corn meal or only yellow corn meal, that you have to pour batter into a really hot skillet so the crust is properly charred, or that once you start adding “extras” like jalapenos or kernel corn it’s not really cornbread any more–but like lots of things it’s really a matter of taste. For plain jane cornbread I personally like to use white corn meal (for the light, fluffy consistency) and soured milk with a little yogurt added to the batter for moisture and acidity, but there’s something to be said for the rustic, hearty qualities of a good stone ground yellow corn meal, especially for the winter or to make a good southern-style cormeal stuffing with lots of celery and onions. Here’s a basic recipe, or you can always use the Jiffy, a pantry staple:

BASIC CORNBREAD

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees, with a large greased cast iron skillet on the center shelf.
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Mix the following dry ingredients:

1.5 cups yellow or white corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Make a well in dry ingredients for the following wet ones:

1 large egg
2 cups buttermilk or soured milk (milk with 1 tbsp of vinegar added)
3/4 cup yogurt or sour cream
2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Mix the thick batter until it isn’t lumpy, then carefully pour into the now-hot skillet. Bake for 30 minutes or until the crust is firm and browned all over, or until your house smells really good and you know it’s done.

Here’s a fancier version for special occasions only:

“COMPANY” CORN BREAD (as in “cornbread for company”, not like “the company store”)
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1.5 cups yellow corn meal
1 cup bread flour
1 tablespoon baking soda
2 tablespoons baking powder
1.5 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon ground red pepper (or more to taste)
1 ¾ cups buttermilk (or milk soured with a little vinegar)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ to ½ cup honey or sugar
1 cup very sharp cheddar cheese, grated
½ cup salted butter
1 giant yellow onion, chopped small or minced
¼ cup cider vinegar (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. In a large cast iron skillet, cook onions in butter until soft and translucent but not quite caramelized (usually about 12-15 minutes on medium heat). Transfer cooked onions and butter to a bowl to cool, but do not refrigerate. Keep the skillet warm over low heat for baking the corn bread (already greased).
3. Combine corn meal, bread flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and ground red pepper in a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center.
4. In separate bowl, combine milk, sour cream or yogurt, egg, and honey. Pour into dry ingredients and mix vigorously by hand until smooth. You may need to add more milk to get the right consistency, depending on humidity.
5. Fold in warm onions and sharp cheddar.
6. If you like, add the cider vinegar last and mix in gently.
7. Immediately pour into warm skillet, then bake in preheated oven for about 45 minutes, but you’ll know when it’s ready by the smell. Sometimes it takes longer to cook. Just make sure the center is done. It is very moist cornbread even when fully cooked.

This second recipe is so rich that you should cut it into very small pieces 🙂

Coming up: tomatoes stuffed with cornbread and basil

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Sinister Chili Verde

Posted in Main Course, Soup/Stew with tags , , , on May 1, 2009 by d0g3n

I entered (and won) a chili cookoff at Brooklyn Botanic Garden in NYC a few years ago with this recipe. The secret is lots of peppers, so that the flavor comes from the peppers rather than from stale old chili powder. It looks scary, but trust me–it is totally approachable by all but the weakest eaters. Here you go:

Sinister Chili Verde
INGREDIENTS:

2 pounds assorted hot green chili peppers
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ pound tomatillos, chopped
1 quart chicken broth
2 tablespoons fresh chopped oregano
1 generous handful fresh chopped cilantro
½ tablespoon cumin
1 pound chicken breast meat
2—16 oz cans whole kernel sweet corn
1—16 oz cooked black beans
salt
fresh ground black pepper

COOKING INSTRUCTIONS:

Roast the chili peppers, peel, and remove all the seeds.  The heat of the chilies is in the white placenta that connects the seeds to the flesh of the pepper. Cleaning the chilies is the key step, and makes the difference between a teasingly hot taste and one that is potentially painful.  Rinse the chilies
after seeding if they still seem too fiery.

In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium heat and add onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes or until onions start to wilt and turn translucent.  Add garlic.  Chop roasted chili peppers and add to pot, along with tomatillos.  Add broth and spices and bring to a simmer.  Add remaining ingredients and season to taste with salt and pepper.  If it is too caliente, wait—it should become slightly milder as the flavors meld together.  Let everything simmer for at least 45 minutes, check seasoning, and serve.