Fried chicken and biscuits & gravy and collard greens. Perhaps it is a throw back to childhood and a summer vacation in the early 70’s though the Midwest and southern states where I first saw lightning bugs and cotton fields and bright white Baptist churches.
That was a very long time ago, but I still remember watching the landscape whiz by as we traveled from Vancouver, Canada in our 1964 El Camino, which my Father still owns (in mint condition) with the canopy on the back and all our camping gear safely stowed – mile after mile.
The big, stately plantation houses, the small clapboard shacks, dogs panting in the shade and everywhere the big, welcoming smiles of southern hospitality. How I longed to be a southern belle.
Since then I have returned to the south a couple of times, grazing my way though chicken-fried steaks, pies and barbecue. There is a quality to the food that is so unmistakably comforting and homespun.
As temperatures climb, cicadas hum in the trees and green grass turns pale and course – those southern recipes roll out and I don my (slightly affected) Georgian accent and complain about the heat…
“I’m a puddle ova’ here!”
It’s all very Scarlett O’Hara.
This is my version of Southern Cornbread. In my days as Innkeeper (chief cook & bottle washer) at the Dragonfly Inn, these were popular late summer fare enjoyed by many a guest. Nothing goes better with cornbread as cream cheese and a dash of red pepper jelly – creamy and tangy.
Dubbed by a gentlewoman from South Carolina as my “Chili Cheese Cornbread Muffins” these hold a few surprises – fresh corn sliced right off the cob as part of the batter, adds texture & flavour, the cream cheese baked into the center so it’s gooey and smooth and easy to spread and the red pepper jelly baked on top adds just a hint of sweet spice.
They are a meal unto themselves.
Planned on serving these gems this morning with a chive scrambled eggs but — turns out I’m out of eggs. Note to self: if making scrambled eggs, be sure you have eggs as they are a key ingredient in said dish.
“Come and git it y’all… while it’s still hot.” The dogs lie panting in the shade and I have on my very best smile.
“Fiddle-dee-dee!” ~ Scarlett O’Hara
- 1¼ cups flour
- ¾ cup cornmeal
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 cup milk
- 1 egg
- ¼ cup melted butter
- 1 ear of fresh corn, kernels removed
- ¼ cup cream cheese spread – rolled into 1 teaspoon balls, then chilled
- ¼ cup red pepper jelly, reserved for top
- Preheat oven to 400° F (200°C). Prep 12 – cup muffin tin with non-stick spray, smeared with butter, or lined with paper muffin cups.
- Mix the dry ingredients together; form a well in the center, add milk, eggs & butter. Mix wet ingredients together then lightly fold (3 or 4 times) with dry ingredients, then add kernel corn. Mix lightly to combine until just moist.
- Muffins like a light hand, mix ONLY until moist and handle very little, this will ensure a tender, moist result.
- Fill muffin tins/cups ⅓ full; with spoon form a slight well in the center of each muffin, roll approximately 1 teaspoon of cream cheese between the palms of your hands to from a loose ball, then place in divot of batter.
- Spoon batter to cover cream cheese filling; be sure that the batter seals around the cheese, then make another small divot on the top of the muffin. Spoon approximately 1 teaspoon of red-pepper jelly into that hallow.
- Bake in a preheated 400* oven for 15 – 20 minutes (depending on the size of your muffin tray). Be sure your rack is in the center of the oven.
Pair with a chive scrambled eggs cooked low & slow, or a leg of barbecued chicken or a rack of ribs, or a tall glass of iced coffee.