Growing up in Texas usually means that you eat a lot of cornbread. My household was no different. There always seemed to be a black cast iron frying pan sitting in the middle of the dinner table whenever we had gumbo, chili or stew. I still use that pan today for many dishes.
I guess it’s been in constant use for 80 years. As a treat, my mother made what she called Texas Cornbread in the 1950’s. She never wrote down the recipe, but I knew what the ingredients were. A few years ago, I found a recipe with the same ingredients in a cookbook called TEXAS – The Beautiful Cookbook. I altered the recipe to reflect how I remember my mother making it 50+ years ago. Years ago, when Sally and I were in the west Texas town of Albany for “Polo on the Prairie”, an annual fundraiser for U.T.M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, we brought back a Texas-shaped cast-iron corn bread pan and now the cornbread seems better.
Here is the recipe with alterations to reflect my memories of it:
1/4 cup canola oil
1 (4 oz.0 can of chopped poblano peppers for roasted mild Hatch chiles) I like to roast one Poblano pepper on my gas grill and chop it.
1 minced fresh jalapeno pepper (This may be mild, as it is for flavor rather than heat).
2 teaspoons minced jarred pimento
1 (15 oz.) can of cream-style corn
1/2 cup of sour cream
1 cup of finely-ground yellow corn meal (I use Pioneer, as it’s a Texas company).
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese(I use local Texas artisan cheddar cheese from Pola Artisan cheese).
Grease a 9-inch cast-iron frying pan and place in the oven. I use Falfurrias butter to grease the pan, as it’s a Texas product.
Preheat to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs and oil until well-blended. Add the poblanos, jalapenos, pimiento, corn, sour cream, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and 1-1/2 cup of the cheese. If you care to, add two or three canned chipotle peppers adobo…drained and finely chopped. Stir with a wooden spoon until well-combined.
Remove the pre-heated fying pan from the oven and pour the batter into it. It will sizzle as you pour the batter into the hot grease (I use Falfurrias butter to grease the pan, as it’s a Texas product). Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cut of cheese on top. Return to the oven and bake for 45 to 60 minutes and it is golden brown. At 45 minutes, the corn bread will be very moist and will have a slight custard texture to it due to the sour cream, creamed corn and melted cheese. If you want the flavor of the ingredients but a texture closer to traditional corn bread, bake it for 60-75 minutes. A toothpick inserted into the center should come out clean. All baking recipes say that, but the toothpick comes out clean long before it’s done.
Cut the cornbread into wedges and place the pan on the table on a trivet. Serve hot directly from the pan. When using the Texas-shaped pan, i like to start with the panhandle of Texas, but the tastiest piece includes El Paso and Big Bend National Park.
Balsamic Herb Vinaigrette
Virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Spice mix for chicken:
1 T. sweet Spanish (smoky) paprika
2 T. dried oregano
Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste
1 large (10 pieces) chicken
1/4 Cup of Spanish extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds of chorizo (or Andouille) sausage, thickly sliced
Kosher salt and ground pepper
One large Spanish (yellow) onion, small diced
4-6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bunch of Italian flat-leaf parsley chopped (reserve enough for garnish)
1 (15 oz.) can of San Marzano tomatoes, drained and crushed
4 cups of Spanish short-grain rice
8 cups of chicken broth
Pinch (large) of saffron threads
1 dozen clams
1 dozen mussels
1 pound of peeled, deveined shrimp
4-5 lobster tails
1/2 cup of sweet peas (cooked, to sprinkle on finished paella for garnish)
10 lemon wedges
Rub the spice mix on the chicken and refrigerate for one hour.
Heat the olive oil in a paella pan over medium-high heat and saute sausage until browned. Remove and reserve.
Add the chicken and brown, skin-down, turning until browned. Add salt and pepper, than remove and reserve.
Add onions, garlic and parsley to make a sofrito. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and cook until caramelized and the flavors have melded with the sofrito ingredients.
Fold in the rice and stir-fry to coat the rice.
Add the chicken broth and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the chick, sausage and saffron.
Add the clams, mussels and shrimp, tucking them into the rice.
Cook for around 15 minutes or until the rice is al dente.
Add the lobsters during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking (cover during this time).
Turn the heat up for the last 45 seconds to 1 minute to toast the bottom of the rice and for the socarrat.
Sprinkle peas on the paella an place lemon wedges around before placing pan in middle of table to allow guests to serve directly from the pan.
Tom Kha (Seafood)
2 cans (14 oz.) coconut milk
2 can (14 oz.) chicken broth
6 quarter-size slices fresh ginger
1 stalk fresh lemongrass, cut in 1-in. strips and smash with the side of a knife
½ to 1 pound of large shrimp, peeled but with tail on
18-24 live mussels
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons Thai or Vietnamese fish sauce
2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons Thai red chili paste
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
In a large saucepan (I use a wok), combine coconut milk, chicken broth, ginger, and lemongrass and bring to boil over high heat. Add mussels, shrimp, mushrooms, lime juice, fish sauce, sugar, and chili paste. Reduce heat and simmer until the mussels have opened (5 to 10 minutes). Discard lemongrass. Discard unopened mussels (important).
Garnish servings with basil, cilantro and a small red chile.