Viva Louisiana! Chef Jud's Jalapeño Cornbread Muffins
Photo: Chef Jud fuses Latino spice with a traditional Southern favorite to come up with this month's "Sweet Justice" recipe.
The dessert recipe I'm throwing your way this month moves along the same Southern route as the peach cobbler that you, my gentle readers, tried last month. But like the cobbler, my featured corn muffin recipe is really not so Southern anymore. Once a food idea is attempted by an outsider of any cuisine or region, then it's no longer solely rooted in that particular place—it's been bastardized. But that shouldn't deter any budding cook from fearless culinary creativity. Rather one can feel encouraged by the secret ingredient—or knowledge—that frees them from having to make their version exactly like the regional delight.
At one point, I wanted to ask my two friends who grew up near Baton Rouge what they thought of my feeble attempt at Southern cooking. Then I realized I'd only offend them. It's not what they'd call home-cooking. Real home-cooking is based on locally available ingredients, knowledge of the culture or scene and well-guarded recipes that are handed down from one generation to the next. Anyone can duplicate an original recipe. Go online for pretty accurate versions of secret recipes like KFC's "11 herbs and spices" if you feel compelled to impress your family and convince them you don't need to eat out anymore. My point? You're better off making any traditional dish yours by truly owning it and putting your own unique stamp on it. It just takes some courage, research and practice. So, was my thinking when I created my jalapeño corn muffins.
Pre- Dessert Recipe
There are a couple things to keep in mind when preparing this month's dish. The size and amount of your jalapeño peppers will have an obvious impact on your muffins. Personally, I prefer fiery foods. But that's just me. When you chop the peppers make sure to not include the seeds or the whitish spines that hold the seedpod. Also, you can easily substitute honey or 1/3 cup of white sugar instead of the agave nectar—just make sure to include the sugar with your dry ingredients if you take that route.
My fiancée, who's become my regular guinea pig, would have liked more sweetness but I do like this muffin to be a bit less sweet. (Never thought I'd be the one to favor less sugar!) Baked like this, these cornbread muffins are actually more along the lines of Southwestern eating than Southern and would easily accompany a black-bean dish or eggs. Let me know what you think.
Jalapeño Cornbread Muffin Recipe
YIELD: 9 muffins
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 jalapeño peppers, small dice
1 egg, beaten
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup plain yogurt
1/4 c agave nectar or honey
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease muffin pan or line with paper muffin liners. In a large bowl, mix together corn meal, flour, baking powder, salt, jalapeño, and cayenne pepper. In a separate bowl, mix egg, oil, water, agave nectar, and yogurt; stir gently to combine and add to dry ingredients. Mix together until just smooth. Spoon batter into prepared muffin pan. Bake at 400 degrees F (200 degrees C) for 13 - 15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into a muffin comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing from pan.
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