Cornbread brings the heat

SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON POSTMarch 12, 2014 

FOOD-TEXMEX31

Poblano, Bacon and Cheddar Skillet Corn Bread.

POST — The Washington Post

Pati Jinich, host of “Pati's Mexican Table” on public television, is a fan of skillet corn bread. Her oldest son, Alan, who was born in Texas, ate it as one of his very first foods.

The crisp bacon in this version provides a subtle bite — not to mention tasty bacon fat, which goes into the batter and coats the skillet. Fresh poblano peppers bring a mild heat and a lot of exuberance.

POBLANO, BACON AND CHEDDAR SKILLET CORN BREAD

10 servings

3 fresh poblano chili peppers

6 to 8 slices center-cut bacon (about 4 ounces total)

1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

1 1/4 cups flour

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 cup whole milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

4 large eggs, well beaten

2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

2 cups fresh or frozen/defrosted corn kernels

Place the poblanos directly on a gas burner over medium-high heat. Cook, turning them as needed, for 10 to 15 minutes or until they are charred all over. (Alternatively, position an oven rack 4 inches from the broiling element and preheat the broiler. Arrange the poblanos on a piece of aluminum foil and place on the rack to broil for 10 to 15 minutes; turn frequently until charred all over.)

Transfer the poblanos to a zip-top bag and seal, or place in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. When they are cool enough to handle, discard the blackened skin, stem, ribs and seeds, then dice the remaining flesh. (It is easier to remove the skin under running water, but that may wash away flavor.) Cut the flesh into small dice; the yield is a packed 3/4 cup.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a plate with a few layers of paper towels.

Heat a 9- or 10-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crisped. Transfer the bacon to the lined plate to drain. Turn off the heat, leaving the fat in the skillet.

Combine the cornmeal, flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and black pepper in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the milk, cream and eggs in a large liquid measuring cup, then stir into the cornmeal mixture until just incorporated. Add the diced poblano, the cheese and corn. Crumble the bacon over the bowl. Pour all but 1 tablespoon of the rendered bacon fat from the skillet into the batter, stirring gently to incorporate.

Heat that same skillet over medium heat. Once the remaining bacon fat shimmers, pour the corn bread batter evenly into the skillet. Transfer to the oven; bake for 30 to 40 minutes or until golden brown and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Cut into wedges; serve warm.

Nutrition per serving: 380 calories, 18 g protein, 35 g carbohydrates, 19 g fat, 10 g saturated fat, 140 mg cholesterol, 660 mg sodium, 2 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar

TEX-MEX CHILI

8 to 10 servings (makes a generous 11 cups)

This chili pumps up the “Mex” by reducing the cumin and upping the pepper flavor. It can be refrigerated for 3 days or frozen for up 6 months.

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 pound beef stew meat, cubed or cut into 1-inch chunks

1 pound lean ground pork or lean ground beef

Kosher salt or sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 medium white onion, coarsely chopped

1 medium red bell pepper, cored, seeded then coarsely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped jalapeno pepper (seeding optional)

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon mild or hot paprika

1 teaspoon ancho chili powder or chipotle chili powder

1 tablespoon sauce from canned chipotles in adobo, or more to taste

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 tablespoon tomato paste

28 ounces canned, crushed, no-salt-added tomatoes

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar

4 cups no-salt-added beef broth

30 ounces no-salt-added, homemade or canned pinto beans (drained and rinsed, if using canned; about 4 cups)

Sour cream, for garnish

Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish

Shredded cheddar cheese, for garnish

Crushed tortilla chips, for garnish

Thinly sliced scallions, for garnish

Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large Dutch oven or wide, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the chunks of beef. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the meat releases from the surface.

Stir so the meat begins to brown on all sides, then add the ground pork or ground beef. Season lightly with salt and black pepper; cook for 5 or 6 minutes, stirring, so the ground meat browns and loses its raw look and its juices evaporate.

Clear a space at the center of the pot; add the remaining tablespoon of oil, then the onion, red bell pepper and jalapeno pepper, stirring to coat. Cook for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring frequently to keep them from scorching.

Clear a space at the center again; add the garlic, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, paprika, chili powder, adobo, cumin and oregano, stirring to incorporate. Stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, brown sugar and vinegar; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring a few times, to form a thickened mixture.

Stir in the broth; once the mixture starts to bubble vigorously, reduce the heat to medium. Stir in the beans. Reduce the heat to medium-low to maintain a low boil; cook, uncovered, for 1 hour, stirring occasionally; for a thicker chili, add up to 15 minutes to the cooking time.

Taste, and add adobo, salt and pepper as needed.

Divide among individual bowls. Serve the sour cream, cilantro, shredded cheddar cheese, tortilla chips and scallions at the table, so guests can garnish their own portions.

Nutrition per serving (based on 10): 330 calories, 25 g protein, 21 g carbohydrates, 15 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 50 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar

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