Side Dish Supremacy: Southwestern Buttermilk Cornbread

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I know I’m not alone in this: I’m one of those people who gets way more excited about the Thanksgiving side dishes than the turkey. I look forward to stuffing (sometimes more than one kind!), potatoes (also the more varieties, the merrier), and squash so much more than the bird. In fact, I would be happy forgoing the turkey completely, but I suppose the carnivores wouldn’t be very happy about that. Anyway, what’s the best thing to accompany these delicious carb-tastic sidekicks? I’m gonna go with a hefty square of bready, cakey cornbread, please! Now, cornbread can go very wrong, mind you. It can be too dry or bland or crumbly, and that won’t do. I never had a go-to recipe, and I even resorted to using a not-terrible box mix for a few years out of frustration… until I took a baking class at San Francisco Cooking School a couple of years ago with Kim Laidlaw, author of Williams-Sonoma’s Home Baked Comfort. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I already had that book on my shelf without realizing that she was the author and happened to be teaching this class! This Southwestern Buttermilk Cornbread (an example of quick breads in class) captured my attention and kinda changed my Thanksgiving dinner landscape forever. Gone were the days of trying different recipes, only to be met with perennial cornbread disappointment; this recipe works time after time. It is dense and perfectly moist (thanks to the buttermilk) with a crisp top, and the best part is that it’s loaded with cheddar cheese and chiles. In fact, you can change up the mix-ins any way you want. Wanna make it an Italian-style polenta bread? Swap fontina for the cheddar, omit the chiles, and add Italian herbs. Like it extra spicy? Use pepper jack and add red child flakes. How about a French version with goat cheese, thyme, and Provençale olives? Feta and kalamata olives for a Greek variation? I could go on. Anyway, I love this customizable cornbread, and I make it not only every Thanksgiving now, but also to accompany chili or any other Southwestern-esque cuisine. You will want to keep this in your repertoire if you enjoy Thanksgiving as much as I do!

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There is a bit of prep work in setting out all the mix-ins and grating the cheddar, but once the ingredients are prepared, the cornbread is really easy to pull together. You’ll simply whisk together the dry ingredients, then whisk the wet ingredients, combine them, and finally fold in the cheese, chiles, and roasted peppers. The result is a cheesy, piquant, fluffy, flavorful cornbread that compliments pretty much everything on your Turkey Day table, but also stands out on its own because it’s a little different than the usual plain variety.

I hope you enjoy a warm and wonderful holiday with loved ones this week!

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Southwestern Buttermilk Cornbread
Adapted from “Kitchen Sink Corn Bread” in Home Baked Comfort by Kim Laidlaw
Yields 16 servings

  • 1 cup (5 ounces/155 grams) fine or medium ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1 cup (5 ounces/155 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (6 ounces/185 grams) corn kernels, fresh or frozen (thawed)
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • ¼ cup (3 ounces/90 grams) mild honey
  • 1 ⅓ cups (11 fl oz/330mL) buttermilk
  • 4 tablespoons (2 ounces/60 grams) unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup (2 ounces/60 grams) shredded sharp white cheddar cheese
  • 4 ounces (125 grams) canned diced mild green chiles
  • 1 whole fire-roasted red pepper from a jar, finely chopped (about ¼ cup or 2 ounces/60 grams)

Preheat an oven to 425°F and set a rack in the center position. Line a 9×9” square baking pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil so that it overhangs on the sides, and lightly grease it.

Whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the corn kernels and whisk until they are evenly incorporated and coated with flour.

In a separate larger bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the honey, buttermilk, and melted butter. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and whisk just until the mixture is evenly blended. With a rubber spatula, fold in the cheddar cheese, green chiles, and roasted red pepper just until incorporated. The batter will be thick and chunky; pour it into the prepared baking pan and smooth the top if needed.

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Bake the cornbread for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the pan cool for about 10-15 minutes on a metal cooling rack, then remove the cornbread slab using the overhanging paper and cut it into squares. Serve it warm with butter or at room temperature. It can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for a couple of days… but it won’t last that long.

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©Dafna Adler & Stellina Sweets, 2016.

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