Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Cornmeal Muffins & Mexican Cornbread with Soup

Good morning! Cold, snowy weather in much of the U. S. leaves us wishing for a steamy bowl of soup with some hot buttered cornbread to warm us up. The best I can do is to give you some recipes for both. I gave you the recipes for two soups a couple of days ago, so today I'm giving you recipes for cornbread to go with them. I've used a version of these recipes for many years now. They remind me that when I was growing up, we had some kind of bread at every meal.

We often had pinto beans and cornbread, or white beans and cornbread, black-eyed peas and cornbread, or dried limas and get the picture. And to go with these, there would be cabbage or slaw, maybe spinach, or turnip greens. Sometimes there would be potatoes or rice or corn--and the first fresh corn of the summer is a taste never to be forgotten. All delicious and all served with some kind of relish, or maybe pickled peaches. In the summer, there was yellow squash or okra, and the dried beans were often replaced with fresh green beans or crowder peas, or even English peas, if they'd been grown in the garden.

And in the summer, there were more desserts, because there was fruit to make apricot or peach cobblers, or apple pie, or that wondrous dessert called strawberry shortcake. We were a family of seven--my sister the oldest and me the youngest, with 3 strapping boys in-between, who appeared to be starving most of the time. So when there was fried chicken, I might have appeared unladylike in my determination to get one of the fast-disappearing pieces of fresh panfried poultry.

We always had fried chicken when the preacher came home with us on Sunday, and it has remained my favorite meat--not fried anymore, but roasted. When we had meat--fried chicken, pork roast, beef roast, or even porkchops--our bread was biscuits or rolls rather than cornbread. We rarely ate loaf bread at a meal unless we were having sandwiches, which didn't happen often. As you can understand, there remains a menu in my head for every meal, along with the kind of bread that goes best with it.

First of all, I'm going to give you a recipe from Ina Garten's The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook. I don't think there's a food I enjoy for which she doesn't have a recipe. Even though these muffins have a raspberry injection, it doesn't have to be done, and shouldn't be added when you're eating these muffins with soup.

Raspberry Corn Muffins
Makes 12 large muffins

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup medium cornmeal
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 pound unsalted butter, melted and cooled
2 extra large eggs
3/4 cup good raspberry preserves, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Line 12 large muffins cups with paper liners. (I would say this is also optional, unless you're adding the preserves and want a cake-like finish.)
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix the flour, sugar, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, melted butter, and eggs. With the mixer on the loweest speed, pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until they just blended. (I don't use a mixer to blend these ingredients as it isn't necessary, and creates more of a mess.) 

Spoon the batter into the paper liners, filling each one to the top. Bake for 30 minutes, until the tops are crisp and a toothpick comes out clean. Cool slightly and remove from the pan.
After the muffins cool, spoon the raspberry preserves into a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip. Push the tip of the bag through the top of the muffin and squeeze 1 to 2 tablespoons of preserves into the middle. Repeat for each muffin.

My father would have loved Ina's recipe. It would have saved him from his after-dinner ritual of mixing preserves, honey, or molasses with butter to spread on a biscuit or cornbread for his dessert. But if you have a bent for something spicier, here is a recipe for Mexican cornbread, which isn't nearly as hot as some recipes I've seen, but it's the one I've used over the years. It was a recipe given to me by my Aunt Jewel, my father's sister. The original recipe uses self-rising flour, but it's been years since I've used that flour. So to my friend, Alice, who uses self-rising flour, I say...leave out the baking powder and salt!

Mexican Cornbread
8 to 10 servings

1 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 small can creamed corn
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup grated, sharp cheddar cheese
2 large eggs
1 1/4 cup sweet milk
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix dry ingredients, then wet ingredients, and mix well together. I cook Mexican cornbread in an iron skillet by adding some oil to the skillet, putting it in a hot oven to preheat, and then adding the cornbread mixture.
Cook from 30 to 40 minutes or until the top is brown. Yum!

One more recipe for cornbread is the one I use all the time. It's from the Tassajara Bread Book, which I gave to Paula many years ago, while saving this recipe on a card. It's easy and delicious.

Tassajara Cornbread
Makes 1 dozen muffins

1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 to 1/2 cup honey or molasses
1 1/2 cup milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. For cornbread, I always preheat my pan with a little oil in each cup. When hot, take out of the oven and add spoonfuls of cornbread mixture. Bake for about 20 minutes.

Well...these recipes should give you a start on making a heartwarming meal for yourself and the family as we're moving through cold, cold weather over much of the country. And while you're enjoying these good, hot meals, I'll be looking for a nice dessert to finish them off!



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