Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Mom's Mexican Cornbread, sort of
I've been dithering about this blog for months, because I wanted it to be a place for lots of different functions. Collecting treasured recipes and remembrances. Pointing out that creating a home for yourself and your loved ones doesn't have to mean spending a lot of money, in fact, more often doing something yourself creates a sense of home and well-being that's much stronger than hiring a job out or having a special meal catered. Finally I decided I might as well just start off with a favorite recipe, then let things grow naturally, as they're inclined.
While everyone has their own favorite recipes for cornbread, I grew up with a Texan mom who was a kick-ass good cook, and I've never found any Mexican Cornbread recipe that can touch this one. Even so, I can never resist tinkering with it a bit, every time I make it.
This is a savory kind of cornbread, rather than sweet, and is even better as leftovers. Not that there's usually any left over.
2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 can of cream style corn
A healthy pinch of salt (if you're still measuring salt with a teaspoon or half-teaspoon, stop it. Start experimenting with pinches, instead. It makes it look like magic when anyone's watching you cook something that turns out to be really delicious.)
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 T baking powder
2 T oil (I like olive oil. Some cooks will tell you not to use it, because it tastes different. It does. It tastes better.)
1 or 2 eggs (I always use two, because my mom always did. We recently discovered, though, that the recipe she has, as it's written, actually only calls for one egg.
1 cup milk (Give or take, depending on how much other stuff you add to the batter in the next step.)
I make the batter pretty much like I'd make any batter, mixing the dry ingredients in a big bowl, then whisking the wet ingredients together in a big measuring cup, and finally stirring the wet ingredients into the dry with a big wooden spoon.
Optional stuff to add to the batter:
Bacon, chopped and fried crisp (We will be capitalizing Bacon in this blog, out of reverence for one of the best tasting things ever invented. You'll note that I didn't say how much. You'll want three or four slices, at least - but if you really like bacon, feel free to use a little extra.)
A couple of cups of shredded cheddar or jack cheese
A half-cup of fresh or roasted whole-kernel corn
A couple of chopped roasted green and red chilies or jalapenos, depending on personal taste. I use jalapenos. ETA: The canned jalapeno slices like you'd use for nachos work just fine! No need to mess with fresh peppers unless you're a masochist.
If you're feeding meat-lovers, you're also going to need:
A pound of ground beef, scrambled with some garlic and a pinch of salt, then drained (you can use a mix of beef and chorizo, but omit the extra salt if you do.)
Another half-pound or so of grated cheddar or jack cheese.
Put a couple of tablespoons of cooking oil in your well-seasoned ten-inch cast iron skillet and pop it in the oven on 375 F for about ten minutes (if you don't have a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet, we'll have to remedy that. But in the interests of getting your cornbread cooked now that you've already mixed the batter, if you have to use a baking dish this time, we'll just make do. Skip the pre-heating step, though.)
Put a little less than half of the batter into the bottom of the skillet and spread gently into an even layer. Layer the cooked ground beef evenly over the batter, then add a generous layer of shredded cheese. Top with the remaining batter. You'll have to sort of dab it on, to spread it evenly atop the other layered ingredients. Top this with more shredded cheese. you can also top with a lovely starburst pattern of sliced jalapeno peppers, if you like them a lot. I do.
Pop the whole thing into the oven (still at 350-375 F) for 35-40 minutes, or until a table knife inserted halfway between the edge and the center of the cornbread comes out clean. Let it rest for 5-10 minutes after removing from the oven, and serve. Sour cream goes with your cornbread very nicely, but honestly, I love it best of all just plain.