I know you think I'm lacking a bit of creativity here. Green chile cornbread, ORIGINAL, Jess. But what if I told you I had NEVER made cornbread before? AND, what if I told you I've had multiple people rave about this recipe? Yep, that's right. RAVE REVIEWS. I adapted my Grandma's go-to Aunt Jemima cornbread recipe. As I adapted, I had a few goals in mind. Goal #1: That gorgeous, rustic crack on top of the bread. I know, kind of random. I wasn't EXACTLY sure how to make certain this would happen, but I hoped and prayed for it through the whole baking process. Does that ever happen to you? You plan to make something and then become fixated on one detail that you really want to happen? I've become fixated on the puffy top of a muffin, the perfect juicy factor in a piece of chicken, the twirl of pasta in the plating process, and the artful dusting of cinnamon or powdered sugar on just about anything. It's the little things, right? Can you see that scrumptious crevice that had me obsessed? Yep, the prayer thing worked.
Second, despite the fact that I really wanted the crack on top, I didn't want that to mean dry cornbread. Goal #2: Not too crumbly. Nobody likes to grab a piece, bite into it, only to have the whole piece crumble in their hand and onto the floor. What usually follows is cornbread-inflicted depression, and ain't nobody got time for that. One note on making cornbread that I've discovered is, don't be afraid to add a little to the wet ingredients if necessary. I added the wet to the dry and mixed and ended up with a little bit of a crumbly dough. You want it to all be sticking together. I find cornbread needs to be a whole lot more wet than, say, a normal bread dough. (Some of you may be thinking, Duh, but I'm tryin' to help the rookies like me!) The nature of cornmeal is that it soaks the liquid up REALLY quickly. I would start with 1 cup, as directed, and then add a couple splashes here or there if you need it. Trust yourself, you can do it! (Know this, if you fail at cornbread, the taste can be easily salvaged by a big hunk of butter on top.)
Goal #3: Honey instead of refined sugar. This may not necessarily be a whole lot healthier, but it sure does make me feel better. Also, in approaching this cornbread, I knew I didn't want it TOO sweet. Throughout my research, though, I've found that people are a little bit hardcore about the sweetness of this classic. Disclaimer: If you want it sweeter, MAKE IT SWEETER. My recipes aren't the law, but I can tell you, they're good. I always approach recipes as a sort of framework, so if you want to add more honey, be my guest! Let me know how it turns out.
Goal #4: Good green chile flavor. Okay, now this one is fairly straight-forward, especially when you have good Hatch green chile. The challenge in achieving this goal was getting the amount right. Too much chile would end up tasting a little bit like a cornmeal-y chile relleno, but too little would simply taste like cornbread. So I went on a Goldilocks quest, and landed at the right amount. If I were to make this again, I might also try adding some green chile liquid to the batter, just to make sure the flavor is running all through, instead of hiding only in the bits of chile. What do you guys think of that idea?
Goal #5: Texture interest. I am totally a texture-eater. In order for a dish to be texture-interesting, you really just need a bit of contrast. The slightly crunchy outer layer contrasted with the moist inner layer was a start, but I just wanted a little more. The green chile bits add a bit more interest, but those are mostly little flavor packets. I chose to add corn kernels in an effort to get a little more contrast to the moisture on the inside. This step is oh-so-easy, and I feel like it adds all the extra magic to a beloved classic like cornbread. How about we recap a bit, shall we?
- Goal #1: That gorgeous, rustic crack on top of the bread. SOLUTION: PRAYER.
- Goal #2: Not too crumbly. SOLUTION: A couple splashes of milk, if necessary.
- Goal #3: Honey instead of refined sugar. SOLUTION: Just use honey instead of sugar. Surprisingly simple!
- Goal #4: Good green chile flavor. SOLUTION: 3/4 cup green chile, possibly some green chile liquid.
- Goal #5: Texture interest. SOLUTION: Add corn kernels (frozen or fresh will work).
The result of all these was a pretty darn delicious batch of green chile cornbread. I was kind of proud of myself, I almost shed a little tear (or I may have just used the hot chile...). Thanks for the recipe, Grandma! Also, thanks for letting me borrow some cornmeal when I accidentally bought CORN STARCH at the store. I know. Like I said, I'm a rookie.