Comfort Food Alert: Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread

A friend posted a picture of his Mom’s Mexican cornbread on Facebook, and started something. Dave’s peeps (including me) took notice of this good-lookin’ comfort food, with loads of comments, like:

That looks heavenly ~ I’ll be right over ~ Can almost smell it from here ~ Moms make the best food because they really don’t want us to move out!

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Doesn’t that meat-studded cornbread in a cast-iron skillet just call out: “Comfort Food! You need this now!” photo credit to Dave Smith

So of course I begged for the recipe. And lucky for all of us, Dave’s Mom shared! We decided on Mary’s Mexican Cornbread as its moniker. But now that I’ve made it, I’ve changed it to Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread. Why? Well, I’ve had lots of really good Mexican cornbread in my day, but never one with meat in it. The ground beef is added as a filling between two layers of jazzed-up cornbread batter.  This adds a welcome heartiness, kicks it up a notch on the comfort food scale, and elevates the dish to a main course that’s easy and quick enough to make on a weeknight.

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See the layers in the finished dish?

The meat layer in the middle sinks into the bottom layer of the cornbread and creates a strata with different textures from the bottom to the top; the result is almost like a tamale pie. In fact, you could substitute masa for the cornmeal and it would be very close to a tamale pie. The dish is so filling that all you need to finish out your dinner plan is some fruit or a quick salad.

Note: I made two minor additions to the recipe. First, I preheated the cast iron skillet; I learned to do that years ago from the back of a cornbread mix package. The preheating gives the cornbread a really brown crust, and we like that here at Glover Gardens. The second minor change was to use a bit of chorizo with the ground beef (this got the Grill-Meister really interested).

There are lots of other things you could do with this marvelous recipe – use fresh corn shaved off the cob instead of creamed corn, use canned green chilis or poblanos instead of (or in addition to) the jalapeños, or go a different direction with the peppers and use canned chipotle chilis, or substitute diced pork or venison for the ground beef…but don’t get me wrong, folks, this recipe is just right as-is. And trust me, it is so easy, so good and so versatile, you might just want to make two while you’re at it. As you’ll note at the bottom of this post, there are lots of other ways to serve Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread, and you’ll wish you had leftovers.

Ingredients

  • 1 to 1 ½ lbs. of hamburger meat (or a mix of 2/3 hamburger and 1/3 chorizo)
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • ¼ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup chopped Vidalia or 1015 onions
  • 1 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 1 can cream corn (14.75 oz.)
  • 4 chopped jalapeños peppers (take out seeds and ribs if you want mild)

Cooking Instructions

Preheat the oven to 400°.  Optionally, put a 10″ or 12″ cast-iron skillet into the oven once it is preheated, and let it get really hot while you’re assembling the rest of the ingredients (don’t grease it until after you preheat it). Otherwise, spray a 9 x 12 baking pan (glass or metal) with cooking spray and set aside.

Fry the hamburger meat (and chorizo, if you’re using it), drain, and set aside. Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil and milk and stir well. Add the chopped onion, grated cheese,  chopped jalapeños and creamed corn and stir until just blended. If you’ve preheated your cast iron skillet, pull it out of the oven and spray generously with cooking spray.  Pour half of the cornbread batter into your greased pan or iron skillet and spread it out smoothly, then sprinkle the meat evenly on top. Pour the rest of the cornbread batter on top of the meat, spreading it evenly. Bake in the oven at 400° until brown. Serve hot.


 

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Goodies are added to the cornbread batter which jazz it up
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The batter, with the goodies mixed in
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Pour half of the cornbread batter in the hot skillet first, then sprinkle the meat evenly before pouring the rest of the batter on top
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Use a spatula to spread the top layer evenly
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This looks just like the picture Dave posted of his Mom’s cornbread!
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This recipe is so yummy! and would be good with sangria

The Grill-Meister is a big of Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread, and had some great ideas about other ways to serve it. How about topping it with some of my Glover Gardens Chili? Brilliant! It made a great one-dish lunch.

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The flavors of the chili and cornbread are complimentary but different, and jalapeños added a nice kick

Or how about transforming this into Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread Breakfast, with a fried egg? Double brilliant!

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Mary’s Magical Mexican Cornbread rocks a fried egg for a quick brunch dish with some refried beans on the side

Try this rockin’ recipe, and let me know what you think. I’ll be sure to pass your compliments along to Dave and Mary.

 

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook (except the original recipe, which belongs to Mary)

Sandwich Wednesday: Steak and Fontina Panini

Sandwich Wednesday is a thing at Glover Gardens. The Grill-Meister is also a Sandwich King and takes over the kitchen on Wednesdays, surprising me with a variety of bread-borne main courses like paninis.

I love Wednesdays!

The latest press-perfect panini featured slices of leftover grilled ribeyes and fontina cheese. The Grill-Meister gathered these sturdy ingredients along with some baby arugula we had on hand and sliced some red onions. (We think red onions make almost all sandwiches better.) He pulled out a variety of condiments and set up a do-it-yourself assembly next to the sourdough bread so we could each have a customized sandwich made exactly to our own specifications.

Steak and Fontina Panini Ingredients
Panini ingredients and a parade of condiments

As you can see, the condiment choices were bacon jam, remoulade, Dijon, horseradish cream, and more mustards: deli, creole and stone-ground. All great options, but I went immediately for the Dijon because of its classic combination with steak. The Grill-Meister decided to do Dijon on one side and horseradish cream on the other; horseradish and beef being another classic combo. I followed his lead, and let me tell you, Dear Readers, the Grill-Meister was right. The spicy Dijon and horseradish produce a dual but complementary bite that was balanced by the almost-sweet creaminess of the fontina cheese.

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Doesn’t the gooey melty cheese make your mouth water?

And hey, it’s a weeknight, so don’t go to a lot of trouble on the side dishes – paninis are great with simple sides like fruit, beans, potato salad or even just carrot sticks or cherry tomatoes.

The recipe below serves 2; just increase the amounts if you aren’t empty-nesters like us. Also, if you’re a vegetarian, don’t despair; this panini would rock with a grilled vegetable in place of the steak. You could use portobello mushrooms, eggplant or thick planks of zucchini.

Ingredients

  • 4 large slices of sourdough bread
  • Dijon mustard and horseradish cream, or other tangy condiments of your choice – see above
  • 6 oz. of sliced cooked steak, deli roast beef or pot roast
  • 1 cup loosely packed arugula (we used baby arugula but grownup greens would be ok, too)
  • 3-4 slices of red onion
  • 4 oz. sliced fontina cheese or other medium-flavored, medium-hard cheese (Gouda or Edam would be a good substitute)
  • Softened butter to spread on the bread

Cooking Instructions

If you have a panini press, set it to heat up to medium high. Spread the condiments of your choice on the bread slices, then build the panini on one piece of bread, starting with the beef, then adding the onion, arugula and the cheese. Put the second bread slice atop the cheese, then spread a light layer of butter on the top slice. When you are ready to press the paninis, turn them over and place the buttered side down on the bottom plate of the panini press, then spread butter on the top piece of bread and close the press. Push down the top slightly to compress the sandwich and cook for about 7 minutes, or until the bread is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Remove from the panini press and serve.

If you don’t have a panini press, you should get one! But actually, you can simply heat a skillet to medium high and follow the same process, using a spatula to press down the sandwich and turning to cook the second side after the first is browned.

Note: The panini party with the leftovers is why we always, always, always grill more steak than we can eat, but this sandwich would be just as good with roast beef – either the sliced kind from the deli, or the for-real kind if you had an old-fashioned roast for Sunday dinner.

Panini Press

Glover Gardens is non-commercial, but we do occasionally recommend products, just our opinion about stuff that works or is good. That’s the case with this panini press.

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The Cuisinart panini press is perfect for the Grill-Meister’s sandwich Wednesday magic-making (photo courtesy of Amazon)

Resources

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Trout Tacos with Avocado Shisito Salad

The Grill-Meister went on a fishing trip off the coast of Mississippi recently, and brought back some lovely trout.

Goody! Now I get to learn how to cook trout. I love a new challenge.

It turned out not to be much of a challenge at all.  Trout is super-easy to grill.  And grilled trout is perfect for fish tacos.

The fish only needs olive oil and seasoning to be absolutely perfect. I use Zippy Southwest, the seasoning mix I make for family and friends. It’s great to have a big batch of Zippy SW on hand, for use in grilling chicken, fish or shrimp, or in many other ways.

These fish tacos would be great with just Pico de Gallo and avocado slices, but the only peppers I had on had were shisitos, so I created this quick salad to complement the trout. Another way to go would be to garnish the tacos with a slaw, like my Pepper Jelly Slaw. And a great sauce would be Stephanie’s Stephanie’s Green Dip. But I didn’t have any of these on hand, and was happy with the Avocado Shisito Salad; it was mild and creamy and just right.

Trout Tacos with Avocado Shisito Salad

Ingredients (serves 4)

Fish & Peppers

  • 1 1/2 lbs. trout filets
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp southwest seasoning or seafood seasoning (I use my Zippy Southwest)
  • 1 1/2 cup shisito peppers (about 18 peppers)

Avocado Shisito Salad

  • 2 large or 3 small ripe Haas avocados, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/3 cup chopped ripe tomatoes (I use grape tomatoes)
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • juice of one lime
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt

 

  • 8-10 corn tortillas
  • Sour cream
  • Sriracha
  • Lime wedges

Cooking Instructions

Heat a gas or charcoal grill to high. Oil the grill or a perforated grill pan with cooking spray. While the grill is heating, drizzle the fish with olive oil and then coat generously with the seasoning.

Grill the fish for about 4 minutes on each side, or until it is done, while at the same time grilling the shisito peppers, removing them when they are blistered. Remove the fish from the grill, sealing it in foil to keep it hot. The fish might break up a bit as you remove it, but that’s ok – it’s going to be put in pieces in tacos. Leave the grill on.

Chop the shisito peppers, then combine the with the avocados, onion, tomato and arugula, and stir to mix. Add the lime juice, olive oil and salt, and stir again.

Grill the corn tortillas for 30 seconds per side on the still-hot grill and seal them in foil.

To serve, put a generous amount of the Avocado Shisito Salad on a corn tortilla, then top with several pieces of fish. Add a dollop of sour cream and a few drops of sriracha.

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Resources

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Westport Salmon, a Recipe Born of Necessity

Several years ago, we met my in-laws in Westport, WA so that my father-in-law could take my husband (“the Grill-Meister” in this blog) and our two boys deep-sea fishing. They caught 50 pounds of salmon – five big fish! It was an wonderful experience to cook and eat salmon that was caught that day, and to hear the (true) “I caught a fish that was THIS big” stories over dinner in our rented bay-front condo.

 

My mother-in-law and I took a scenic drive and had a leisurely lunch at a local winery while the menfolk were doing the fishing, then headed out to the tiny grocery store to buy provisions to cook the salmon we just knew they would catch.  This recipe below was born out of necessity from the few ingredients we could find there.  It’s pretty good! The crunch of the topping with its sharp horseradish bite is a great balance to the smoothness of the salmon on its bed of softened vegetables.

Westport Salmon

Ingredients 

  • 4 – 6 salmon steaks, 1 – 1 1/2 in. thick
  • 1 small yellow onion (or 1/2 large), thinly sliced
  • 1 stalk celery, sliced, including leaves (or a similar amount of bell pepper – whatever you’ve got!)
  • 2 tsp. seafood seasoning, divided, plus more for sprinkling on the steaks (Old Bay is great, so is Paul Prudhomme’s)
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling in the pan
  • 1 tbsp. prepared cream horseradish
  • 1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tbsp. green onions tops, finely chopped

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Toss the onion, celery, seafood seasoning and 1 tbsp. of the olive oil until combined in a bowl. Drizzle a small amount of olive oil in baking pan that will hold the salmon steaks without them touching, then add the onion and celery mixture to the pan, spreading evenly. In a small bowl, combine the horseradish, Panko, green onion and remaining olive oil and seafood seasoning. Place the salmon in the pan on the onion / celery mixture and then add the Panko topping to each steak, patting it on firmly. Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until just done. Turn on the broiler for the last minute or two if your breadcrumb topping isn’t browned.

Note: if you want to serve a quick sauce on the side, combine a tablespoon or two of the horseradish with about a half cup of sour cream and a teaspoon of your seafood seasoning.  Yum!

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Ready to assemble – I didn’t have celery on hand (which was all I had in Westport), so I substituted green bell pepper; red would have been prettier
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Just before baking
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Ready to eat! 

And just for fun, below is a photo of the Westport Salmon that I took the first time I made it here at Glover Gardens, after developing the recipe on our trip.  Although my food photos above are imperfect, look how far I’ve come! (And the white plates work a lot better, don’t they??)

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This tasted really good, but looks like a hot mess!

Hopefully, I’ve convinced you to try the recipe. In the next post, we’ll take look at the lovely little waterfront town.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

 

 

Home Alone Comfort Food: Scrambled Egg Sandwich

So over the last three weeks I had a long trip for work to Paris and then right away, a shorter trip for relaxation to Colorado (I know, I know, you’re not crying for me). After arriving home in Southeast Texas in the wee hours last night and working all day today, I found myself home alone for dinner tonight with no “on purpose” food in the refrigerator. That is, no food that was purchased with a menu or recipe in mind; all the Grill-Meister and I have in the icebox is a plethora of condiments and some too-old leftovers, and he’s not here tonight to justify my ordering Chinese.

What to do? What to do?

Comfort food to the rescue: a Scrambled Egg Sandwich.

I give thanks to my Dad for teaching me the joys of this humble little culinary bundle of joy. I made it a little differently than he did when I was growing up: his version with “Sandwich Spread” and cheddar on white bread evolved into mine with jalapeño jack and fresh baby spinach on wheat, but it’s still a wonderful go-to comfort food item.

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There’s really no recipe for this:  simply scramble a couple of eggs the way you like them (don’t forget the salt and pepper), toast a couple of pieces of bread, and assemble by resting the eggs atop a bed of baby spinach or perhaps some thinly sliced tomatoes on the bottom piece of toast, adding a slice of your favorite cheese and topping with the second piece of toast.  Voila, a lovely dinner for one, reminiscent of your childhood.  Or mine, at least.

I’m curious – what is YOUR easy comfort food when you’re home alone?

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Spicy-Sweet Honey Chipotle Pork Spareribs

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You’ll need a lot of paper towels with these ribs, but they’re worth it!

If you’re like me and have never tried ribs before, and, also like me, perhaps a bit intimidated by the vague feeling that you have to smoke them for hours and they still might come out tough, this is the recipe for you!

I rolled up my sleeves one rainy Saturday afternoon and pulled together this ribs recipe when the Grill-Meister was out playing dominos with his friends. Then I surprised him with them when he got home.  Score!

Succulent and fall-off-the-bone-tender with just the right balance of spicy-sweet and piquant, these ribs take their ‘cue (pun intended!) from the spicy rub they get before baking and a last-minute swab of homemade sauce before a quick char on the grill.

Ingredients (Serves 4-6)

Rub

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This is the brand of ancho chile I use
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp cup coarse salt
  • 2 tbsp cup ancho or chipotle chilé powder (use paprika if you don’t like it spicy)
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tbsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg

Ribs

2 racks St. Louis style pork spareribs, 2 1/2 – 3 lbs each

Honey-Chipotle Barbecue Sauce

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    Chipotle is really important in this sauce

    1/2 cup olive oil

  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup chopped chipotle peppers and sauce
  • 2/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup catsup
  • 2 tbsp of the spice rub

Cooking Instructions

Preheat oven to 300. In a small mixing bowl, combine the spice rub ingredients. Set aside 2 tbsp of the spice rub to use in the sauce, and then rub the ribs generously with the mixture.

Wrap each rack of ribs in heavy duty foil, sealing completely.  Place seam side up on a pan or cookie sheet with a decent-sized lip.  Bake for 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the barbecue sauce by putting all ingredients in a small, heavy saucepan,  heating to a boil and then reducing to a simmer.  Cook at a simmer until reduced and thickened.

When the ribs have 20 minutes left to bake, preheat a gas or charcoal grill to high heat.  When 2 1/2 hours have elapsed, remove the ribs from the oven and carefully undo the foil around the ribs, being cautious about steam and very hot pan juice.  Place the ribs on a different cookie sheet or platter and reserve the pan juice for another use (I like to use it to make stock with the rib bones).

Take the ribs outside to your barbecue, slather the sauce on one side and place on the grill, sauce side down.  You may have to be very gentle with the ribs, because they will be very tender and may want to fall apart.  Slather the sauce again on the top side just after you place the ribs on the grill.  Sear on each side for 4-5 minutes until there’s a nice char, then remove them.  Place on a cutting board and cut between the bones.  Serve with extra sauce on the side.

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The finished product is great with a cool, crisp, chipotle-fennel slaw
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Ingredients for the spice rub
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I made a double batch; the spice rub is good on other meats and fish
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Generously rub each rack with the spice mix
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Seal tightly and place in a pan with a lip
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Make the sauce while the ribs are baking
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After baking, before the grill
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After the final quick char
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Super-tender, super-good!
Honey-Chipotle Ribs with Chipotle-Fennel Slaw
The finished product

These ribs are so good with just a quick slaw. I created a complementary Chipotle-Fennel Slaw when I made the ribs a couple of weeks ago and will publish that recipe soon. And until then, here’s a Pepper Jelly Slaw.

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook

Big Food for Good Times: The U-Boat Sub

The Grill-Meister owned a German deli here in our little suburb of Houston for a while, years before we met.  The relics of that adventure are “I would never want to own a restaurant again” and this marvelous sandwich, the U-Boat.  It’s a German-ish variation of an Italian sub sandwich.

The U-Boat is party food.  Big bites for people with big appetites.  Perfect for big games or big parties or just a bunch of hungry teenagers.

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The U-Boat is magnificent in its simplicity

I convinced the Grill-Meister to revisit the U-Boat recently for a Super Bowl party we were attending, and documented his every move as he made it.  Here is the recipe, just for you.

The U-Boat Sub

Ingredients (serves 4 as a main course, 8-12 as an appetizer)

  • Large loaf of soft Italian or French bread (not a baguette), sliced in half longways
  • 7 oz. thinly sliced Black Forest ham
  • 5 oz. thinly sliced garlic (German) bologna
  • 2 oz. thinly sliced hard salami
  • 6-8 slices each of provolone, American and Swiss cheese
  • 2 large, ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 head of iceberg lettuce, shredded or sliced in ribbons
  • Your favorite Italian dressing, about 1/4 cup or enough to spread across the top of the French bread
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Large wooden picks (optional)

Cooking Instructions

Gather all ingredients and place the bread on a cutting board.  Starting with the ham, add a layer of meat, then alternate with a layer of cheese, overlapping the slices in each layer.  Then scatter a layer of red onions, followed by the tomatoes.  Add a liberal amount of freshly ground pepper, then the lettuce.  Sprinkle a generous amount of the Italian dressing on the second half of the bread, then position it atop the sandwich.  If you’re serving the U-Boat as an appetizer, use the picks to secure it in sections, about 1 1/2 inches apart.  If it is a main course, cut the U-Boat in quarters.

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Origins

Where did the name U-Boat come from?  The Original Italian U-Boat was a successful submarine sandwich restaurant in Chicago that swelled from a single location in 1975 to 32 stores in its heyday, only to file for bankruptcy and close during the recession in 1983.  Chicagoans remember it fondly, according to this article.  There isn’t a recipe for their U-Boat Sub online, although it may exist in someone’s attic.  The Grill-Meister’s U-Boat is similar to recipes for an Italian Sub, although it has a German spin with the Black Forest ham and garlic bologna.

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The Italian U-Boat restaurants closed in 1983

Copyright 2017, Glover Gardens Cookbook