I got four jalapenos in the Box of Wonders the other week. Jalapenos are generally not difficult to dispatch, but four was a little overwhelming. I put them up for grabs. Shae used one for a chicken-onion-tomato-bell pepper concoction that was quite tasty. I know because it made a lot so I volunteered to have some for dinner to help out. Chad used one for a Korean marinated steak dish called bulgogi that turned out great. I know because I stole some off of his plate when he went to get a drink. Stealing is bad, kids. Stay in school.
So I had two peppers left, which seemed a bit more manageable. I could certainly have thrown them in a stir-fry, or even diced them on top of a salad, but I had recently noticed that the jerk ex-roommate who took the lid to my skillet with her when she moved out happened to leave a whole container of cornmeal behind. Not an even trade, mind you, but I’m not getting the lid back so I’ll go ahead and use the corn meal.
Anyway, obviously, corn meal plus jalapenos equals jalapeno-cheddar cornbread! I’ve always wondered how cornbread from scratch tastes, and keeping with the spirit of this whole CSA endeavor, decided it was time to find out. Now at this point you’re probably saying, “Come on Jackie, the Jiffy cornbread mix takes 5 minutes, tastes great, and costs about 60¢ a box.” All true. But it turns out that since you add various items to the box mix, and since the scratch recipe includes half a dozen ingredients total, doing it from scratch actually only takes about a minute longer.
Also, it turns out that homemade corn bread is amazing. It’s fluffy, it’s sweet (yes, all my southern buddies, I know that this whole “sweet cornbread” thing is a ridiculous northern construct, but I’m okay with that), it stays nice longer, and the corn meal is the most exotic ingredient. You are almost certain to have everything you need to make it sitting around the house. I urge you to give it a shot when next you need cornbread.
I didn’t go with one recipe this time, nor did I look for one that had any adjustments in the basic recipe to account for the addition of cheese and jalapenos. Instead I just went with the common traits of five or six recipes for normal cornbread and added the jalapenos and cheese.
Next, I dumped it in a cast iron skillet to cook in the oven for no reason other than that I’ve always wanted to try using a skillet for baking and corn bread seemed like a good test item.
Success! It came out tasting great and it looked really neat. The jalapenos weren’t overwhelming despite there being two in there, and the cheddar added a nice tang to the sweetness. We grated the cheese finely, but I think I would grate it larger next time so you get a discreet bite of cheese occasionally. But maybe not. This tasted awesome. Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with the corn bread mix I grew up with and used exclusively until last week, I don’t think I’ll bother buying it again if I have the ingredients sitting around. Homemade corn bread rocks.
Here’s what I did if you want to give it a try:
1 Cup Flour
1 cup cornmeal
½ cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1 generous Tablespoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1/3 vegetable oil
2 large jalapeños, diced small
1 cup cheddar, grated
Oven at 400, grease (or in my case butter) a, 8×8 baking dish (or in my case 9-inch cast iron pan)
Combine the dry ingredients first, then stir in the wet ones. Stir in the jalapeños and cheddar.
Pour the batter in the pan, whack it in the oven and cook ~20 minutes or more until just the very edge gets golden and a toothpick comes out clean. If the middle is golden its overdone and will probably be too dry. Watch it carefully, that transition can happen in less than a minute.