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.

Batter Recipe:
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.


Janet said...

OK Mac, I want to try this one too. But please, please, PLEASE, specify can sizes. They aren't necessarily standard from country to country or even from year to year.

Sorry, that's been one of my pet peeves for years now. I've been caught at the grocery store more than once, looking at two sizes of cans, wondering which one I'm supposed to get.

Eagerly awaiting your elucidations. ;o)

Mac said...

A-HA! I'll remember to do that, Janet, and good point. :)

I mean, in this case, a 15oz can. In fact, that's usually what I mean, when I say a can of something, unless I specify otherwise. But unless my mom taught you to cook, you've know way of knowing that. *g*

Janet said...

OK, copied and filed. I just made a batch of plain cornbread the other day. I didn't know you could dress it up like this to make a meal out of it. Do the jalapenos have to be roasted, or will raw or stir-fried do?

My well-seasoned and well-loved cast iron pan is a little too small for this recipe. *blush*

And I think it is totally cool that I'm the first person to comment on this blog. :o)

Mac said...

I've made it in a square corningware bake pan, too, and it works. I love the cast-iron for the crispy texture it imparts, though.

As for jalapenos, you can use 'em any way you like 'em. I'll use them fresh or canned, raw or roasted. I pretty much love peppers any way you serve them, though.

Barbara said...

Okay Mac, your forgot to tell them that you can also use the canned jalapeno slices for nachos and they work very well also. Experimented with the bacon, but not my favorite with the hamburger.

Barbara said...

The jalapenos can also be the variety canned for nachos and work very well.

Mac said...

I'll edit the recipe to reflect that. :) Thank, Mom!

Sylvia said...

I made this for dinner tonight, with pork tenderloin and beans. No creamed corn here so I just added corn and a bit of cream. It was lovely and everyone went back for more.

I fried the bacon in the skillet and then mixed in the bacon and fat in the batter before putting it back into the skillet for baking, worked a treat.

I always thought you needed buttermilk for cornbread - we'll be having this more often!