Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread  Recipe
Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread

By Susan Russo

I love Austin, Texas. The people are warm, the food is amazing, and the weather -- well, let's not talk about the weather. Let's stick with the people and the food. One morning while eating breakfast at an Austin eatery, I started chatting with a lovely elderly couple. The conversation quickly turned to food: we talked brisket, chili, Shiner bock (which they drink from the bottle), and cornbread. When I told the wife that I had never made corn bread in a skillet, she replied, in a dramatic affected Southern accent, "Well, dahlin', if it ain't made in a cast-iron skillet, then it ain't cornbread."

She shared how her skillet had been in her family for three generations and how she wouldn't dream of making cornbread in a regular metal pan or glass baking dish. I would love to have my own sentimental tale about a family cast-iron skillet, but the truth is that we don't have one. And while my mom did make cornbread, it usually came from a Jiffy box -- and I wasn't gonna tell that to the Texan with the third generation cast-iron skillet.

Although cornbread is a Southern staple, it comes in numerous regional variations. Some of the most memorable ones I've had include a New Mexican cornbread studded with fiery hatch chilies, a New Orleans cornbread laced with Cajun spices and Cheddar cheese, and a North Carolina cornbread made with buttermilk and bacon. My favorite, however, remains the one I ate when I was a kid in New England: dense, sweet cornbread toasted with butter and drizzled with honey.

There aren't too many people who don't love cornbread. It's easy, versatile, and satisfying. It's delicious on its own, dunked in a bowl of hot chili, or used as a mop for excess BBQ sauce on your plate. It can be simple and plain or chock full of add-ins such as bacon, corn kernels and peppers. There's a cornbread to suit just about any taste.

This was made in a 9- by 9-inch square baking dish, not a cast-iron skillet. Sure, I could go buy one, but to me, that's one of those things that should be passed down in a family. And since my grandmother and mother cared a lot more about making gravy and meatballs than cornbread, skillets didn't feature prominently in our house.

Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread Recipe

Makes 16 pieces.

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal, preferably coarsely ground

1/4 cup sugar

4 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1 cup whole milk

1/4 cup canola oil

1 small jalapeno, finely chopped

1/2 cup corn kernels

1/2 cup sharp cheddar cheese

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1. Place rack in center of oven, and preheat to 425 F. Coat a 9- by 9-inch square baking pan with cooking spray.

2. In a large bowl stir together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt. Add eggs, milk and oil. Beat with an electric mixer until just smooth, about 1 minute. Stir in jalapeno, corn, cheese and cilantro.

3. Pour batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the top is golden and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

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Recipes: "Jalapeno Cheddar Corn Bread "

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