Do you have a little sweet spot in your heart for cornbread? I know I do, and I am not sure if it is because I grew up in the Midwest or just because I like corn. Tell me, is cornbread a best-loved food in the New England states, or the Pacific Northwest, or even in Europe? (Maybe I am showing a little foodie ignorance here, but I really don't know, and I think googling isn't going to give me the answer I want.) Whatever your current preference, I think you should consider developing a little adoration for this slightly sweet treat.
I know for sure that some San Diegians are eating the delicious cornbread that is served at Bud's Louisiana Cafe. Oh, their cornbread muffins are delicious little bites of heaven that are flecked with sweet corn... and also some other sweet flavor that I can't seem to put my finger (or tastebud) on. And, you can get a cornbread muffin at Bud's for the bargain price of 50 cents! So if you have a few quarters in your pocket and you live in So Cal, just cruise on over to Bud's and get yourself a muffin or two.
Or, if you don't live in San Diego, you can whip up a batch of cornbread for yourself in a jiffy with this recipe. This cornbread is sweet, and moist, and definitely spicy, and the golden cheesy topping really takes it just over the top. If you want it a little less spicy, just decrease the amount of jalapenos or omit the whole jalapenos from the top. Don't want cheese? Just leave it out!
Essentially, I have found that when you have a basic cornbread recipe you can modify it in a whole manner of ways. Maybe you want to add chipotle chiles instead of jalapenos, or you want to change it up with some exotic cheese or use fresh corn kernels. Change the recipe to fit your tastes, be they sweet, spicy, or savory.
I have made cornbread before, but this batch I made for a beach picnic party that I had with my co-workers at the end of June. We had TONS of food! We probably could have fed a small army of scientists, but instead, it was just the labmates and a few little ones.
(There is the cornbread up there, and do those cupcakes look familiar?)
We had an awesome day for a picnic; the So Cal "June gloom" disappeared for the afternoon and everyone was able to bask in the sunshine. Playing football, soccer, and frisbee gave us a little exercise and let some people show off off their hidden athletic talents. ;) And as anyone who works a full time job knows, any day when you can get out and breathe some fresh air is definitely a good day.
(Check out that photo on the bottom right: It might be hard to tell, but we "grilled" the ice cream to thaw it out. :) Keeping it on dry ice all afternoon was a good way to keep it from melting, but then it was a solid frozen rock!)
For the picnic, a few of us made all the food, and Grillmaster Steve tamed the flames and expertly took care of all our barbecuing. A few highlights of the menu included some Pineapple Fried Rice and Strawberry Shortcake from Quy, delicious Yakitori from Atsushi, and Pork Satay with Peanut Sauce from Steve. And of course, The Cilantropist contributed an amazing cornbread, some summery cupcakes, and one of my favorite couscous salads (look for a post coming soon!). We all got to eat, eat, and eat to our hearts content, and a good time was had by all.
Cheesy Jalapeno Cornbread
Adapted from Epicurious
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 ounces cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1 cup fat-free milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup sweet corn kernels, from canned, rinsed and drained
2-4 tablespoons pickled sliced Jalapeno peppers, minced
16 whole pickled Jalapeno peppers
Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and grease an 8-inch square baking pan. In a medium bowl, mix first five ingredients, and half the cheese. In a separate medium bowl, beat the eggs, and then add the milk, vegetable oil, corn kernels, and minced Jalapeno peppers, and mix well. Add the egg mixture to the cornmeal mixture, and fold together until blended.
Pour the batter into the greased pan, and top with the 16 whole Jalapeno peppers, distributing them evenly (in an 8-inch pan, that would be a pattern of 4 x 4), then sprinkle the remaining half of the cheddar cheese over the Jalapenos. Bake the cornbread for 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cheese on top is golden brown. Cool on a wire rack, and serve warm or at room temperature.