Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Polenta Cornbread

(photo courtesy of the WSJ, see the link below)

Alright, so I'm taking a little break from the tomatoes to give you a southern classic that will pair nicely with that fresh tomato soup you just whipped up. That's right, it's cornbread!

A few days before the Fourth, I received this link from Erik (hint hint, nudge nudge). And when I came to the Polenta Cornbread I was definitely intrigued. Does this recipe seriously suggest boiling and pureeing the corn yourself? Yes, indeed. All the cornbread recipes I had tried previously just called for cornmeal and flour (and the like), so this was quite the head turner for a freshster such as myself. And I have to admit, I was scared. It sounded like wayyy too much work, and I already had a full plate for the Fourth (ribs and peach crisp on deck). However, I gritted my teeth, woke up early Monday morning, and went to work. And I am happy to report that it really wasn't worth any anxiety. It was simple, and it came out so fantastically. So, voila:

Polenta Cornbread (with a kick)

* 4 fresh corn cobs (get the freshest, most delicious corn you can find! The sweet flavor of the corn makes this recipe)
* 2 cups flour
* 1 cup polenta (not the precooked stuff in a tube, you should be able to find the corn meal in a box at any well-stocked grocery store)
* 2 tablespoons baking powder
* 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1/4 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground is always preferred)
* 2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar
* 1-2 poblano peppers, chopped, with ribs and seeds removed (anaheim works too)
* 2 cups water
* Optional: 1 small jalapeno chopped (ribs and seeds removed unless you like it hot, hot, hot)
* Butter (duh)

* Boil 4 fresh corn cobs, husks and such removed, for 20 minutes (did I mention it's also the season for corn? I got some fantastic Georgia sweet corn from the new Whole Foods on Waugh!)
* Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
* Remove the corn kernels, setting aside 1 cup.
* Put the rest of the kernels in a blender and puree.
* In a large bowl, mix together the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, and pepper.
* Then, stir in the brown sugar, the chiles (and jalapeno if you so desire), the corn puree, the corn, and the water.
* Butter two 8X4 inch pans (or as you can see from my pictures, I just used pie pans because my 8X4's disappeared).
* Distribute the batter evenly between the pans.
* Let the batter rest for 20 minutes (Do you really need to do this? I was skeptical myself, until I found out why).
(happy, resting cornbread batter -- and yes, it is very thick!)

* Place the pans in a baking dish filled halfway with water, and then place in the oven (Again, why? The moisture the water bath provides gives this cornbread a really scumptious texture).
* Bake for 50 minutes-1 hour.
* Remove the water pan, and continue cooking the cornbread (cover the top with foil), for about another 20-30 minutes.
* Let cool for a few minutes, then remove by inverting onto your serving dish. Serve with lots of butter (and honey, if you're looking to bring out the sweetness).

Now, enjoy the sweet, slightly spicy, and soul-soothing experience that is cornbread!

The People Have Spoken
I have been asked for some simpler recipes. If this whole boiling the corn business is just not your thing (although I say, "Have no fear!"), here are some other really great homemade varieties:

Cast Iron Skillet Cornbread

Honey Cornbread Muffins

* Yes, I love the Food Network's website because the recipes are rated and reviewed, and it is super user-friendly.

Also, Joy of Cooking has some fabulous cornbread tips, and a good looking Southern Corn Bread recipe (p. 632), but if you don't own a copy, let me know, and I can scan the page for ya!

~ Stay fresh!

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