A moist, lightly sweet cornbread loaded with goodness.
Everyone likes cornbread. On that much, we agree. From there, things get a little controversial. Should cornbread be sweet? Or is sweet cornbread inauthentic? Does savory cornbread capture the history of this elementary American bread in its purest form? Answers below. One thing is certain, though: No matter the sweet/savory cornbread debate, one thing cannot be debated: Jubilee‘s Spanish green chile cornbread may be the best cornbread you will ever have.
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A Little Cornbread Food History
This green chile cornbread recipe comes from food writer and historian Toni Tipton-Martin’s cookbook, Jubilee. Jubilee won multiple cookbook awards last year, including a James Beard. The cookbook was an IACP award finalist, and named one of the best cookbooks of the year by the New York Times and many more.
Jubilee presents an important addition to the American cookbook cannon. Tipton-Martin wraps her beautiful and thoughtfully-rendered recipes in their African-American (i.e., American) history. This cornbread, she explains, gets called “Spanish cornbread” because black cookbook authors living in the South and Southwest enjoyed cooking with Mexican ingredients like hot chiles and tomatoes, which they called Spanish ingredients.
“Asking a Southern cook whether sugar belongs in cornbread is like pouring gasoline on a smoldering fire,” she writes in Jubilee. While many old recipes did not use sugar, some theorize that sweeter Southern corn and the use of sorghum molasses accounted for its lack. Cornbread was an evolution, starting from West African cornmeal mush called coosh-coosh, which then became skillet corn cakes or hoecake, which then evolved into regional and other variations depending on the availability of enriching ingredients like buttermilk and eggs, plus local influences.
Notes on Jubilee’s Green Chile Cornbread
In addition to buttermilk, this recipe gets its super-moist texture from creamed corn, onion, cheddar, and melted butter. Use a wooden spoon, and not a mixer to make it. Cornbread can be easily over-mixed, and this batter gets stirred together easily by hand.
Above all, get your skillet very, very hot. The batter should sizzle when poured into the pan. The hot skillet gives a nice brown bottom crust to the cornbread.
Cornbread tastes best fresh, but can be frozen or crumbled and dried for stuffing or dressing.
Did you make Green Chile Cornbread? How’d it turn out?
Green Chile Cornbread
- 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
- 1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup creamed corn (one 8-ounce can)
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 4-ounce can diced green chiles
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- 4 tablespoons butter, in large pieces
- Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- In another mixing bowl, combine the creamed corn, buttermilk, egg, chiles, onion, and cheddar cheese.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the liquid mixture into the dry, and mix just until fully combined.
- Heat the butter in a 10" cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until the butter melts and foams. Swirl the butter to coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Pour the butter into the cornmeal batter. Leave the skillet on low heat while you're stirring the butter into the batter. Then immediately pour the batter into the hot skillet. PRO TIP: It is essential that the skillet is still very hot when the batter is poured into it. If the skillet is not hot, you will not get a nice brown crust on the bottom, and the baking time will be longer.
- Bake for 30 minutes, until golden brown and a cake tester comes out clean in the center.
- Serve warm with good, soft butter.