Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread (or croutons)

Back in the States and cooking awesome food again! Good old-fashioned cornbread is one of the first things I made after I got back! This is a super versatile dish that works great as a as an accompaniment to beans, salad, meaty things, or made into croutons for a little added kick to a Cesar Salad (crouton modification is at the end of this recipe).

Note that as with virtually any cornbread recipe, this requires you to have a cast-iron frying pan. If you don’t already own an 10-inch cast-iron pan, do yourself a favor and buy one… They are cheap (often nearly free at thrift stores, Craigslist, or garage sales), cook food better than any high-tech pan, last forever, and are a breeze to clean. 

Prep time: 1/2 cocktail

4 TBSP (1/2 stick) butter (no butter substitutes allowed)
1 cup corn meal (don’t use corn four)
1 cup unbleached white flour
1 TBSP baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup white sugar
2 cups shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup plain yogurt (full fat or lowfat—no fat free)
2 eggs
3 jalapenos, sliced into thin wheels
2 scallions chopped up into small wheels
1 cup frozen corn (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a 10 inch cast-iron frying pan, warm the butter over medium heat until it just begins to turn slightly golden-brown, but be careful not to burn it.

As the butter melts, combine cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, sugar and cheese in a large bowl and mix well with a hand or stand mixer. Set aside.

In a second medium mixing bowl, combine yogurt, egg. Mix a bit and then add the now-browned butter (setting the frying pan aside for the moment). Mix until everything is just blended.

Now add the yogurt mixture to the flour/cornmeal mixture and mix until there are no lumps. Using a wooden spoon or spatula, gently fold in the jalepeno and corn (if using).

Pour the batter into the still-warm frying pan and place it all in the oven. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cornbread comes out clean, about 20-30 minutes (when you think you're two minutes away from doneness, sprinkle the scallions on top). Remove from oven and put the pan on a cooling rack. Allow to cool and set at least 15 minutes before cutting and serving.

To make croutons:
Turn heat down to 300 degrees.

 After the bread has sat for at least 15 minutes, cut into nice, big 1-inch (or even slightly larger) cubes. Discard any edges that are any more cooked than golden brown (delicious to munch on while you make the croutons). Melt an additional ½ stick butter in the microwave and add a couple TBSP olive oil. Gently toss the cubes with the butter and oil in a large mixing bowl. Arrange the cubes on a cookie sheet and put it into the oven. About every 5 minutes (or whenever the bottoms get nice and browned and toasty), you’ll need to remove the sheet and—using tongs—flip the croutons so that an untoasted side is facing down. Repeat until at least 3 or 4 sides are nicely toasted.

Remove from oven and transfer the cubes to cooling rack. These are best on a salad as soon as they’ve cooled to room temperature, or are just slightly warm. 

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