Monday, August 13, 2007

The Bakerina's "Cornbread Thing"

CORN, CORN, CORN! God help me, but I need a 12-step program! I just can't stop myself from buying at least a half dozen ears every other day. Mostly I just eat it off the cob, but one does wish to find new ways to profile this delicious summer crop. So for dinner tonight, I thought I might try making what the Bakerina dubs "The Cornbread Thing." It's a fresh corn salsa served with sour cream or yogurt over homemade cornbread. And though it makes a fine vegetarian supper on its own, we had it as a side dish along side a grilled steak tonight. Scrumptious! First, let me share my favorite cornbread recipe. Several years ago, my friend, Mari, invited friends over for a game night/New Year's Eve celebration. Amid the Scrabble and Balderdash and what-not, we enjoyed some chili and the most wonderful, tender, slightly sweet (Yankee-style) cornbread that I'd ever had! I asked her for the recipe, and I've only made small adjustments to it since, swapping out some of the sour cream and milk for buttermilk, which I dearly love for the tanginess that it offers. Normally, this cornbread calls for some corn kernels to be added in, but since I was serving it with the corn salsa, I omitted that this time. And though you can bake this in a regular glass dish or what have you, today I decided to bust out some cast iron pieces and bake the batter in wedges and corn sticks. (The corn sticks take me back to my youth--my mother had the same pan--and they never fail to delight me.)

Mari's Cornbread
(Updated 1/26/2013)
2 cups flour
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder (up to 4 t)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar (up to 2/3 C)
1 1/2 cups plain yogurt or sour cream (Mari uses 2 cups)
1 cup buttermilk (Mari uses 2/3 cup regular milk instead)
2 eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (up to 4 T)

Whisk the dry ingredients together. Make a well and add the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined. Add a handful of chopped scallions or chives (up to a cup), a handful of shredded cheddar cheese (up to a cup), and two small cans (or one large) of corn kernels, drained. Of course, these may be optional ingredients in some people's view--not mine.

Bake in a greased and floured 10 x 13 pan for 20 minutes at 400 degrees until golden brown around the edges.

Mari's "Geek" Variation: Cook six pieces bacon until crispy. Use the bacon grease in place of the oil. Add 1/2 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese instead of the scallions. Add the crumbled bacon pieces to the mix right before you pack it into the pan.

And then here's the recipe for the corn relish/salsa adapted from the Bakerina who, in turn, interpreted the original recipe from Penzey's Spices. You should prepare it a day ahead for full flavor development, then serve it over the split cornbread with sour cream or thick, Greek yogurt, and a garnish of fresh cilantro leaves. So good! Then again, this would be delicious in place of any other salsa in any other context, even just on tortilla chips or nachos.

Corn Relish

6 ears fresh corn on the cob
2 tablespoons chili powder
2 tablespoons water
1/2 large sweet onion, finely diced, or 1 bunch scallions, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced (I used 4!)
2 medium or 1 large fresh jalapeno chile, finely diced (I used 1 large jalapeno and 2 serranos...I'm not afraid!)
1 large ripe tomato, diced, or 1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half (I opted for the latter, as I bought a basket of heirloom cherries yesterday at the farmers' market)
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
juice of 2 large, fat limes
1/4 cup chopped, fresh cilantro

Cook the corn (I nuke mine in the husks for 12-15 minutes). While the corn is cooking, combine the chili powder and water and let sit for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, combine the onion, garlic, jalapeno and tomato. To the chili powder paste, add the sugar, salt, olive oil and lime juice. Pour the dressing over the vegetables and stir to combine. Carefully cut the corn kernels off the cobs -- this is most easily accomplished by cutting off the tips, placing the cut end into a wide bowl, and slicing down the cob as deeply as possible without picking up too much of the cob. Add the corn to the rest of the veggies along with the cilantro, stir, cover and refrigerate overnight. The next day, stir well again before serving.

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