Great with chili or soup—or all by itself
Cornbread is a New World original. Long before Europeans landed in the Americas, corn (maize) was a food staple here. Native Americans prepared corn in many different ways—including grinding it into a coarse meal and baking it.
Nowadays, we usually make cornbread as a “quick” bread (i.e., one that’s leavened with baking powder). The modern version is also richer, often including milk and/or eggs.
Cornbread is pretty tasty stuff as is, but it’s even better when you add some zesty jalapeño peppers to the mix. Jalapeño cornbread pairs perfectly with spicy chili or hearty soup. And it makes a terrific snack all by itself.
Best yet, it bakes in 30 minutes or less. So you can whip up a batch and let it bake while you finish the rest of your dinner preparations.
Fresh hot bread for dinner? You’ll be a hero!
Recipe: Skillet Jalapeño Cornbread
Traditionally, cornbread is baked in a cast-iron skillet. But these days, many people just use a baking pan (usually something that measures about 8 x 8 inches). I like to use a skillet myself—mostly because the bread looks so attractive in it.
You can use a skillet with a diameter anywhere from 8 to 10 inches. The larger the skillet, the thinner your cornbread. I like mine on the thin side, so I use a 10-inch skillet.
You can use either white or yellow cornmeal for this recipe—there’s no difference in flavor. White cornmeal tends to be more popular in the southern US, yellow in the north. I like the deep hue of yellow, so that’s what I use.
I don’t include sugar in my recipe. (That’s another regional difference, BTW. It’s more common to find sweetened cornbread in the north than in the south.) If you prefer a bit of sweetness, add a tablespoon or two of sugar to the mix.
Prep time for this recipe is about 5 minutes, baking time 25 to 30. So you can have hot cornbread on the table in under 40 minutes.
This recipe serves 6 to 8. Leftovers keep for a few days at room temperature when stored in an airtight container or wrapped well in plastic.
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil (such as canola; may substitute olive oil or bacon drippings—see Notes)
- 1½ cups cornmeal (white or yellow; stone-ground cornmeal is particularly nice)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1½ teaspoons double-acting baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 - 3 jalapeño peppers
- 2 eggs (may want to use pasteurized; see Notes)
- 1¼ cups milk (I like to use whole milk, but skim works too; see Notes for other substitutions)
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- Place the oil in an ovenproof skillet (or baking pan; see headnote for discussion of sizes). Swirl the skillet to spread the oil, then heat for a couple of minutes on the stovetop until the oil is hot. When the oil just starts to smoke, remove the skillet/pan from the stovetop.
- Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, all-purpose flour, baking powder, and Kosher salt in a mixing bowl. Blend well, preferably with a whisk.
- Wash the jalapeño peppers and cut them lengthwise. Use a teaspoon to scoop out the ribs and seeds (be careful, the oil on these is hot; keep fingers away from your eyes). Chop the peppers into very small dice (or use a mini food processor). Add the peppers to the mixing bowl, then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the hot jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Crack the eggs into a separate bowl and beat until well mixed. Add the milk, and beat again to combine.
- Add the egg/milk mixture to cornmeal mix, and stir to combine well (preferably with a wooden spoon).
- Pour the cornmeal mixture into the skillet or baking pan, over the heated oil. Place the skillet/pan in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes.
- At the 25-minute mark the cornbread will either be done, or close to it. (“Done” is when it’s nicely brown on top, with the bread pulling away from the sides of the skillet/pan; a toothpick inserted into the middle will come out clean.) If the cornbread isn’t quite ready, bake for another 5 minutes (but be careful, since over-baking tends to make for a drier texture).
- When done, remove the cornbread from the oven. Cut into slices and serve. I like to serve cornbread hot, but it’s also good warm (or cold).
- Any decent brand of cornmeal will work in this recipe. We like to use small-producer stone-ground meal when we can find it. But the nationally distributed Quaker brand (the stuff in the canister) is fine too.
- We prefer unbleached all-purpose flour, and are partial to the King Arthur brand. But any decent brand should work fine in this recipe.
- Almost every baking powder you’ll find on your grocery shelf is “double-acting.” It’s called double-acting because you get a first reaction (the bubbles that help cause cornbread batter to rise) when you mix the powder with wet ingredients, then a second reaction when the batter hits the heat of the oven.
- Baking powder does become weaker over time (and most baking powder tins have an expiration date). So replace your baking powder when necessary. We usually replace ours once a year, when daylight saving time ends (so we remember to do it).
- It’s a good idea to shake baking powder before using it to make sure all its components are well mixed. Baking powder consists of baking soda, plus an acidic ingredient (which reacts with the baking soda to produce leavening) and a neutral substance (usually corn starch) to provide bulk.
- If you don't have Kosher salt on hand, you can use plain table salt (though I’d reduce the amount by about half since table salt is finer and more “condensed” than Kosher).
- Eggs carry a slight (but real) risk of salmonella. So I suggest using pasteurized eggs when making any type of batter that you might taste raw. Although it’s unlikely the eggs you buy will be infected, why take the risk? Especially since most of us can’t make any type of batter without tasting it.
- You can identify pasteurized eggs because they usually have a red “P” stamped on them.
- You can substitute buttermilk for sweet milk in this recipe. Or even use yogurt.
- A nice addition to this cornbread is a cup or so of shredded sharp cheddar cheese. Add it to the mix at the end of Step 4, after you add the minced jalapeño peppers.
- Bacon bits are also a good addition: Cut 3 to 5 slices of bacon into 1-inch pieces. Brown the pieces until they’re nice and crisp, then add them to the mix at the end of Step 4. If you cook the bacon first, you can use some of the rendered bacon fat in Step 2, instead of neutral oil.
- If you want to add some texture to the cornbread, you can add a cup of defrosted frozen corn to the mix at the end of Step 4.
- Want cornbread muffins? Just use a muffin pan instead of a skillet or baking pan. If you go this route, you don't need to heat the oil—just coat the muffin pan with baking spray (so omit Step 2).
- I usually serve cornbread with butter, but it's also great with any spread that appeals to you, including jam or honey. Or even maple syrup! In that case, though, you'll probably want to eat your cornbread with a fork.
- Speaking of which, although I most often eat cornbread with my hands (as I would a dinner roll), I often use a fork when I'm having a piece as a snack.
Chili’s Best Friend
“Mmm,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs as she bit into a piece of Jalapeño Cornbread. “This goes great with Pork and Sweet Potato Chili.”
“It does,” I said, buttering a slice. “And cornbread is so quick and easy to make. Sort of like your Beer Bread.”
“Which is another great option with soup or chili,” said Mrs K R. “But I think Jalapeño Cornbread is what I want with that Pulled Pork Green Chile Chili you promised me.”
“That’s coming right up,” I said. “It’ll be Sunday’s post.”
“Sunday, huh?” she said. “Just in time for the football game, I suppose.”
“Well, yeah,” I replied. “Our St Louis Rams are playing Houston. And chili makes great football fare. Maybe with a brewski or two.”
“Just remember to keep some antacid handy,” she said.
“What do you mean?” I bristled. “You’re saying my chili causes heartburn?”
“No,” she said. “I was talking about the Rams. The way they’ve been playing, you may need something to settle your stomach.”
“Uh, true,” I said ruefully.
“I’d set out some rye whiskey too,” she added. “You may need something stronger than beer.”
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