A taste for corn

Minolta DSC

Apple – Maggie and Lauren 2005, charcoal on paper, 30 x 44 inches

My friend Maggie once told me about her sudden late night desire for corn tortillas. She decided to make a batch to satisfy her craving. I imagine her in her kitchen in the middle of the night,  pressing the masa into tortillas, the limey smell making her mouth water, then savoring the succulence of the finished tortilla.  I bet she ate the second one slowly, smeared with butter and a pinch of salt.

I share Maggie’s love of corn in many forms. One of my favorites is spoonbread ─ soft-centered spoonbread from a recipe in The Joy of Cooking.  I haven’t made it in a while, but remembered how well it goes with many meals. It is the perfect accompaniment to a vegetarian dinner as it provides a dose of protein.

The recipe is very simple but it does take about 45 minutes to cook so I planned accordingly and put it in to bake while I assembled the rest of the meal.

First, I turned the oven to 375°. I  prepared the baking dish, a souffle dish, by putting it in the hot oven with 2 tablespoons of butter.

spoonbread pan

The batter is simple:  1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/4 cup unbleached flour, 1 tablespoon brown sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 3/4 teaspoon salt, 1 large egg, 1 cup of milk. I used the corn meal that friend James brought me from Aspen Moon farm. It is finely ground but retains the bran ─ the brown flecks in the batter.

spoon bread pan (4)

When the oven and the dish with the butter were hot, I poured in the thinnish batter, then carefully poured another 1/2 cup of milk, without stirring to combine, over the center. This will make the custardy soft center.

batter

Bake for 45 minutes until crusty brown and the center a bit jiggly.

spoonbread

Another quick bread in my repertoire is corn muffins with jalapeños. I serve these with lunch salads, soups, buffalo steaks, grilled chicken, almost anything.

corn muffins

Combine 1 cup cornmeal, 1 cup unbleached flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, (use three teaspoons at a lower altitude), 1 teaspoon salt, 1/3 cup brown sugar. Add 1 large egg, 1 cup of milk and 6 tablespoons safflower (or canola) oil.  Stir in a large chopped pickled jalapeño.  Pour batter into a well-buttered muffin tin.  This makes 10- 12 muffins.  Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.

muffin

The final dish in my corn marathon was posole.  Bud always smokes our Thanksgiving turkey over coals on the Weber and I look forward to the smoky broth I make from the remains. This year I used it in posole, a New Mexico dish of chile and hominy.

posole

I soaked the dried corn kernels (the best are from Rancho Gordo),  overnight, then cooked them in water to generously  cover.  Once the corn was softened, in about an hour, I added a hunk of onion and an ancho chile and left the pot to simmer, partially covered, until the posole was tender and had ‘bloomed’. This took another couple hours and I added water as necessary to keep the posole covered.

with poblanos

To make the soup, I sauteed a large, chopped onion and four cloves of garlic in a little safflower oil, then added three roasted, peeled, chopped poblano chiles. I  dumped these into the cooked, drained posole, added several cups of my smoky turkey broth and let the mixture simmer.  Just before dinner I added chopped leftover turkey to the soup and prepared the garnishes.

with turkey

I used my mandoline to cut a piece of cabbage into fine shreds, tossed it with the juice of half a lime, salt and a little olive oil.  I prepared cilantro and cut up an avocado and a lime. Other inclusions might be a melty Mexican cheese, slivered radishes, or a salsa. I used what I had on hand.

garnishes

I tasted the posole for salt, stirred in a big spoonful of chipotle puree and served the soup in bowls made by Thea and Lele.

posole 2

 

 

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