Monday, June 18, 2012

Sheila’s Mexican Cornbread Muffins #MuffinMonday

Sheila's Mexican Cornbread Muffins are baked up with cheesy cornbread batter flecked with red and green jalapeños, baked in muffin cups made of bacon. Yes, bacon!

Food Lust People Love: Sheila's Mexican Cornbread Muffins are baked up with cheesy cornbread batter flecked with red and green jalapeños, baked in muffin cups made of bacon.  Yes, bacon!

I have always been free and easy about sharing recipes.  Perhaps it was my upbringing but good food is meant to be shared, right?  By the same token, I am not shy about asking you to share yours.  I met someone years ago (in a ladies' Bible study group no less!) who refused to share recipes.  I can’t even remember what she had made that I expressed an interest in knowing how to make, but she flat out said, “I don’t share my recipes.”  I was sure she was kidding and tried to make a joke.  She was dead serious.  I was flabbergasted.  Seriously?  I had never met anyone who refused to share before (or since.)

Fortunately, my friend Sheila was also raised in the Southern Louisiana tradition and, when I asked her to share the recipe for her succulent, cheesy spicy cornbread, she sent me an email right away.  She is the best kind of friend because she never hesitates to share other information as well.  She was the one who first took me around Cairo and showed me the important things like where to get Fritos and Karo, where the Community Services Association is and she gave me the name of a good vet who makes house calls.  Look in the dictionary under Helpful, Knowledgeable Expat and you will see a photo of Sheila.  Because she is among the very best of our ilk. 

1 cup or 6 oz or 170g yellow cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup or 226g sour cream
1 1/4 cups or 12 oz or 275g creamed corn
2 eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 medium onion
2-4 jalapeño peppers or chili peppers (Sheila said: I like red and green.  I agree!)
12 oz or 340g extra sharp cheddar

Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.   Grease a 9in X 13in or 33cm X 23cm cake pan or line a 12-cup muffin tin with awesomely delicious bacon cups.  Or muffin liners.  But I promise bacon cups are worth the trouble.  They are not only pretty but add such flavor to the cornbread.  Your mouth will be doing a happy dance with the cornbread alone.  The bacon cups add a pirouette to every bite.

Chop your onion pretty finely.  My father-in-law won’t eat onions if he can see them so I was careful with this step. 

Dice your chosen peppers and add as much as you like, depending on their hotness and your potential eaters.  Peppers vary greatly in heat and so it’s worthwhile to give yours a taste to judge how spicy they are before you add them.  If greater heat is desired, also leave in the membranes and seeds.

Mix all of the ingredients.

Pour or spoon the batter into your prepared pan.  As you can see, I chose the bacon cups!

For the cake pan, bake for about 45-55 minutes - or 25-30 minutes for muffins - or until golden brown.  If you are using bacon cups, coax them out gently with a spoon while still warm.  In any case, allow them both to cool before cutting.

Food Lust People Love: Sheila's Mexican Cornbread Muffins are baked up with cheesy cornbread batter flecked with red and green jalapeños, baked in muffin cups made of bacon.  Yes, bacon!

Food Lust People Love: Sheila's Mexican Cornbread Muffins are baked up with cheesy cornbread batter flecked with red and green jalapeños, baked in muffin cups made of bacon.  Yes, bacon!


Food Lust People Love: Sheila's Mexican Cornbread Muffins are baked up with cheesy cornbread batter flecked with red and green jalapeños, baked in muffin cups made of bacon.  Yes, bacon!
Divine cheesy spicy deliciousness.  And also bacon.  

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Crispy Cups of Bacon Joy

All my friends and family know that my favorite food item has to be bacon, hands down.  Since we live in Egypt most of the year round (at least since last January) bacon is not readily available and I find that just makes my longing stronger.  Since I am in Houston for a few weeks this summer, I am delighting in the availability of pork, alcohol and also, THAT I CAN DRIVE.   I am enjoying Cairo, don’t get me wrong, and I have a lovely gentleman that drives me around and knows everything there is to know about getting places in an expeditious manner and even where to shop for most things.   But I am reveling in the ability to wield my own car keys and steer my own vehicle where I want to go at any time of the day or night.  Captain of my own ship.  FREEDOM! 

Here’s a little item that I hesitate to call a recipe since it has but one ingredient, you guessed it, bacon.  So let’s just call it instructions for crispy cups of bacon joy that you can fill as you see fit.

BACON (Please keep up.)  
For 12 crispy cups of bacon joy you will need 18 slices of normal (not thick cut) streaky bacon.

Preheat your oven to 400°F or 200°C.  

Put your muffin tin upside down in a bigger pan.  This will catch the bacon grease and prevent an oven fire while the bacon cups bake.  

Cut six of your bacon slices in half.  Fold the half slices in half again in a V, draping them over the top of each upside down muffin cup, trying as hard as you can to get total coverage, while still leaving a little bit of the bacon hanging over the edge.

Cover the rest of the muffin tin with a full slice of bacon, starting near the base of the muffin cup and working your way up till the final circle covers the overhanging bacon from the top.

Press the top down to make a nice neat upside down cup.

Bake in your preheated oven until the cups are crispy.  This should take about 20-25 minutes but could take longer, depending on your oven.  Just keep an eye on them. 

Remove from the oven and prop the bottom cooking pan up on one side with a towel or oven mitt to allow the grease to run off into the bottom pan.  (I save this bacon grease for future cooking adventures like Yorkshire puddings or even green beans.)

See the blue towel on the right?  It's under the bottom pan on one side. 
When the muffin tin is cool enough to handle, gentle wiggle the bacon cups free using a teaspoon to push up all around the sides.

Some of them will have holes in the bottom but this does not prevent them from being filled with much deliciousness.   (Or you could just eat some of them as is, which doesn’t make sense because of the time involved, but that didn’t stop me from doing it.  If you are not judging, I want to be your friend. ) 

Two suggestions:  Baked eggs (Sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake in a 350°F or 180°C oven for about 10-12 minutes or until white is just set.  Serve with buttered toast to dip.) 

I just made two of these.  They were the PERFECT dinner. 

Or my friend Sheila’s Cheesy Mexican Cornbread.  But, oh, my goodness!  Cheesy, spicy and succulent beyond belief baked in a crispy cup of bacon joy. )

Cheesy Mexican cornbread batter, going in!

I think quiche filling would be divine in these too! 


Hey, see that little green Facebook symbol up in the right hand column?  If you click on it and then hit LIKE when Facebook opens, you will never miss a post because they are automatically updated to my Facebook page.  I mean, just if you want to.  Thanks!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Almost Mo's Crawfish Étouffée

Spicy rich crawfish étouffée, almost exactly as my Cajun grandmother used to make it. The perfect dish for Sunday Supper or a Mardi Gras party!

Hear that spinning noise? Wait, what? You don’t hear it. It’s so loud on my end and I know what it is. It’s my grandmother, in her grave, spinning. If you’ve read my About Me, you know I am originally from Southern Louisiana, home of crawfish and gumbo and Tabasco pepper sauce. In fact, many family members worked for Tabasco on Avery Island when I was growing up. We never used store-bought sauce because, if you washed and saved and brought your bottles back to my grandmother, she got them filled up with the best of the best, what we called bottom of the barrel. Scooped from the bottom of the barrels used to age the Tabasco, that sauce was the nectar of the gods.

As the relatives who worked on Avery Island grew older and retired, my grandfather, who always had a huge kitchen garden, started growing his own peppers from seeds he had been given by those same relatives. And my grandmother started making and bottling her own sauce from the Tabasco peppers. To this day, you will not find a bottle of store-bought Tabasco sauce in our houses. It’s too full of vinegar with too little body. I prefer to make my own as well, although I can’t get the Tabasco peppers anymore and have to use habaneros. But I digress.

Back to my grandmother and her spinning. Along with the disdain for store-bought Tabasco, I was brought up with a healthy dose of repugnance for any crawfish not caught wild in the Atchafalaya Basin. Those were the years of a short crawfish season just in the Springtime and when it was over, it was over, till the following year. Nowadays, with crawfish farming and crawfish imports from *gasp* China (here the spinning noise increases in volume) we can eat crawfish étouffée year round.

With apologies to my grandmother, we love crawfish étouffée and, in as much as I am causing her post-death exercise by using frozen Chinese crawfish, I try to make up for it by making it just as she would have. Or as close as I can get with the foreign interlopers which don’t have as much of the lovely orange fat as our locally caught specimens.

1/2 cup or 65g flour
1/2 cup or 120ml canola oil
2 medium onions
1 bunch of green onions
1 large green bell pepper or capsicum
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 cup or 115g butter
4 packs frozen crawfish (Each pack is 12 oz. I buy Boudreaux’s, which, despite its name, is indeed from China.)

(If you can't get crawfish, this can also be made with shrimp or prawns. It won't be the same but it will still be delicious.)

Make a roux by mixing the flour and canola oil in a heavy pan. Cook over a medium heat, stirring frequently, until it turns a lovely caramel color. For full step by step instructions, check out this link: How to make roux. 

Meanwhile chop your onions, green onions and bell pepper.

When the roux is browned enough, tip in the vegetables and cook, covered, until the vegetables are very soft – about 10-12 minutes.

Add the tablespoon of tomato paste for color and the butter to replace the missing fat content and cook for a bit longer, perhaps another 10 minutes. (In the old days, the tomato paste and butter were not necessary as the crawfish came with a lot of the natural orange fat which, I have been told, is not allowed in packing any more. This fat gave the étouffée the lovely color without anything else added.)

Add in the crawfish and cook for another 10 minutes, covered. Season to taste with sea salt, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne.

Serve over white rice in the Tabasco gumbo bowls that your grandmother left you. If you are so blessed.

One of my most precious possessions - a set of Tabasco gumbo bowls.