Cleaning out the Freezer & Cornbread
We ate the last quart of frozen berries about six weeks ago and freezer pickings are starting to get a bit slim, as they should be. I am equally as keen on filling that freezer in summer and fall as am to emptying it by late May when the berries in Oregon start arriving. I’ve gotten better at managing quantities of things to freeze based on my families likes and dislikes, my style of cooking and what holds up best in this format. The only thing I miscalculated this year was on roasted Anaheim chilies. I still have a LOT of those left. It may be they are a bit too spicy for my five-year-old or that I just haven’t remembered them at the right time when I was making chili or some other suitable dish. So this week I will be dicing them and adding them to cornbread (recipe below) and savory bread pudding and rice and anything else I can think of. If you have favorite ways to use these Anaheims or some roasted Poblano chilies please share!
I managed the quantity of my frozen, roasted tomatoes well this year since with our cool, wet spring we won’t be seeing tomatoes in the market for a good while. I have enough for a few more sauces or soup bases and for quesadillas and sandwiches.
As I canvas the nearly empty freezer I am reminded of the privilege of “going shopping” in the basement freezer and how that one last jar of pesto will mean dinner can be on the table in 15 minutes or that tomato jam that’s a little spicy, savory and sweet will grace some “Daddy Patties” or a hamburger next week. All that incremental work of stocking in small batches as I have extra in the peak of the season is rewarded over and over again.
I have gotten better at labeling frozen items over the years, though last week, a container marked rhubarb compote, that I had been saving for dessert for a recent cooking class turned out to be cooked Pinto beans. So while the freezer has turned up a few surprises like that its contents have mostly served as constant inspiration, reminder of summer flavors, and in-house grocery store.
And this time of year, as the new growth of spring gains traction I will start “shopping” more in the backyard for things like this, that pair nicely with the dregs of the freezer.
Chili and Cheese Cornbread Muffins
–adapted from Fields of Plenty by Michael Ableman
I make this for dinner regularly. It’s very quick and nothing beats warm cornbread for dinner. It’s really best within a few hours of baking but it never lasts long around here. This version has chopped, roasted chilies, sharp cheddar and black pepper in it. However, if you omit those, you get the plain, traditional one I love too and typically make in a cast iron pan. You can certainly make this version in a cast iron pan too and skip the muffin tin.
5 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided
1 ½ cups cornmeal (I use a fairly course/polenta grind but medium grind is fine too)
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 – 1/3 cup chopped, roasted Anaheim or Poblano chilies
3/4 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
pinch or two of cayenne (optional)
1 ¼ cups milk (preferably whole)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Melt 4 tablespoons of butter and let cool slightly. Combine cornmeal, flour, baking, powder, salt, pepper and cayenne (if using) and sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk the egg and milk together in a small bowl. Add melted butter and milk mixture to dry ingredients along with cheese and chilies and stir quickly. Do not over mix.
If you’re making muffins, brush the tin with melted butter (the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons) and fill the cups 3/4 full and bake for 10-12 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. You really don’t want to overbake these. Or heat a 9 or 10-inch cast iron frying pan over med-high heat. Add the remaining 1 ½ Tbs butter to the pan. When the butter is melted and foaming pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until the corn bread is golden and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean, between 15 and 18 min. Serve hot out of the oven.