Last weekend, as I was sprawled on my mega-jumbo-king-sized bed in my hotel room, I was faced with a daunting dilemma: I was exhausted, with an overwhelming amount of homework to do, and Ina Garten was cooing at me through the television, luring me in with her cherubic smile and haughty chuckle. What was I to do? Was I supposed to turn Ina off, get off my asana and work on my Warrior III flow, or was I supposed to forget the homework, and give Ina the time and attention she so rightfully deserves?
What was I doing in a hotel room in the first place, you ask? You see, I’m getting my Registered Yoga Teacher certification, which requires me to travel all over the Midwest, taking weekend workshops from awe-inspiring instructors, where we study lots, read lots, discuss lots and yoga lots. And – as I mentioned above – get plenty of homework, like reading, creating vinyasa sequences and reviewing alignment charts.
But here’s the thing. Hubs and I got rid of cable television a couple of months ago. 99% of the time, we don’t even miss it, and we sure like those extra bucks in the bank; heck, we barely even have time to watch the things I’ve queued up in our instant Netflix list. But if I come anywhere near cable television – be it at a friend’s house, the dentist’s waiting room, or a hotel room – I get sucked in. Like, really sucked in. Like, Poltergeist sucked in. Like, Gosh-these-Kardashian-girls-are-sort-of-charmingly-tolerable,-I-think-I’ll-watch-for-the-next-four-hours sucked in. It’s that bad.
So there I was, Kroger salad in hand, propped up on the extra pillows I’d requested, torn between yoga and Ina. In this particular episode, Ina was making her jalapeño cheddar cornbread for her adorable and equally-cherubic husband, Jeffrey. I’d made Ina’s cornbread a time or two before, and was blown away by how moist, flavorful and delicious it was – it probably has something to do with the virtual mountain of cheese that goes into the batter, or perhaps the two sticks of melted butter… Yeah, you heard me.
I ended up negotiating a deal with my conscience: I would do my yoga homework like a good little yogini, but would devote my next Flyer Foodie article to Ina’s epic cornbread. Minimum guilt, maximum efficiency, everyone wins. And here we are! So, let’s talk cornbread, shall we?
For the longest time, I thought cornbread was best out of a box, with just the right amount of dry ingredients, mixed with a couple of eggs and a little milk to produce something that was marginally satisfying, slightly crumbly and a little on the dry side. I hadn’t attempted making cornbread from scratch, for fear of it turning into something that looks and tastes like it belongs within the Yellow Brick Road. How misled I was! Homemade cornbread, when made just right, is some of the most decadent and satisfying cornbread in the history of, like, ever.
I’d bought some organic War Eagle Mill yellow cornmeal a few months back (which stores very nicely in the freezer to avoid rancidity, btw), which is stone ground right here in the Ozarks. For a cornbread with a fluffy texture yet satisfying crunch, the flour to cornmeal ratio needs to be spot-on; in this recipe, it’s 3:1, which yields a wonderfully light consistency. The flavor is heightened by the addition of fresh jalapeños, chopped green onion and that mountain of cheese I mentioned earlier, which take this cornbread above and beyond anything that comes out of a box.
This cornbread goes wonderfully alongside any soup, stew or pot of beans, and it also serves as deliciously decadent sandwich bread. For my batch, I used large, Texas-sized muffin tins, but you can certainly use a 9×13 baking dish or a pair of 8×4 loaf pans. Feel free to add other fun ingredients to the batter, like corn kernels, minced garlic or even chipotle peppers. With one bite of this cornbread, you’ll soon be scoffing at that box of Jiffy. Enjoy!
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Jalapeño Cheddar Cornbread
(adapted from Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa at Home)
3 c. flour
1 c. yellow cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar
2 Tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 c. whole milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
2 sticks butter, melted (plus extra for the pan)
8 oz. extra sharp cheddar, grated and divided
1/3 c. chopped green onion
3 Tbs. seeded and minced fresh jalapeños
Preheat the oven to 350°. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the milk, eggs, and the melted butter. With a large spoon, stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until most of the lumps are gone. Be careful not to overmix! Mix in 2/3 of the grated cheddar, the green onion and the jalapeños, and allow the batter to sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, grease either large muffin tins or a 9×13 baking pan. Pour the batter into the greased muffin tins or pan, and sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the top turns golden and a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool, and serve warm or at room temperature.
* If the above slideshow doesn’t load, you can view all the photos from this recipe on Flickr.
Laura is a regular contributor for the Fayetteville Flyer. She was born and raised in Fayetteville. She is a self-proclaimed foodie and avid cook. For more of Laura’s contributions, see her Flyer Foodie author page. For more cooking, recipes, and other food-related inspiration, visit Flyer Foodie on Facebook.