There are foods that you like. There are foods that you love and share with the people you love. And then there are foods for which you develop such a specific and passionate ardor that you tell the friend who made them that she’s not allowed to make any for anyone else ever again, lest the food become too ‘mainstream’ and you be denied your fair share.
The first time that I made cornbread for Supper Club was at our first Thanksgiving. It was more of a symbolic gesture towards traditional Thanksgiving foods than anything else, and as I mixed up the honey butter to go alongside it, I was sure that I’d be the only person to take more than one piece. I was wrong: everyone went home that day with little packages of cornbread and honey butter, and my back of the box batch of bread became our unofficial mascot.
Since then, cornbread has made constant appearances at Supper Club gatherings: as lightly-sweetened muffins, in stuffing, in Deb Perelman’s excellent goat cheese and caramelized onion variation, and once, in a fit of whimsy, as part of a menu made entirely of dishes named after members of One Direction.
It’s the One Direction version, once named Jalapeño-Cheddar Horan-bread, that I come back to most often. It’s spicy and salty and excellent with honey butter, and the best part about its muffin incarnation is the fact that it allows for maximum caramelization of the slightly ridiculous amount of cheddar that I have squeezed into this recipe.
Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread Muffins
1⁄2 cup corn kernels, preferably fresh but thawed and drained if frozen
1 small onion
3 ounces pickled jalapeño slices, drained and patted dry
11⁄4 cups buttermilk
1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
3⁄4 cup cornmeal (that’s polenta if you’re outside the US)
11⁄4 cups all-purpose flour
1⁄2 teaspoon table salt
1⁄4 cup sugar
1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
5 ounces sharp cheddar, grated
- Preheat the oven to 390° F (195° C). Grease a 12-cup muffin tin.
- Mince the onion and the jalapeño.
- Sauté the onion in a little oil until softened and translucent, then add the jalapeño and corn and cook until warmed through. Set aside to cool.
- Lightly beat the egg in a medium bowl, then whisk in the oil and buttermilk until uniform.
- In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, and spices.
- Toss the grated cheese with about a teaspoon of the dry ingredient mixture until evenly coated.
- Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour in the buttermilk mixture, followed by the cooled onion mixture. Stir with a spatula until just combined. The batter will be thick.
- Add the cheddar and gently fold until the cheese is evenly distributed.
- Fill the wells in the muffin tin about two-thirds of way up and bake until the tops are springy and golden brown, about 18-20 minutes.
- Cool in the tin for 5 minutes, then unmold and allow to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Eat at least one of them warm.