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Archive for Holidays & Occasions

RECIPE: Skillet Cornbread

Skillet Cornbread Recipe

New England Open House Cookbook

Corn Bread Squares

[1] The earliest cornbread was made in a skillet: Rectangular baking pans were not yet in use. This recipe is courtesy [2] the New England Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase. [3] Corn pone, also called hoe cakes and johnny cakes, was the immigrant European’s version of the Native American cornmeal flatbread. [4] Today cornbread is most often cooked in a rectangular pan, like this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.

 

Serve this skillet cornbread for breakfast with eggs.

Or serve it for lunch with a bowl of hearty soup and/or a salad.

The recipe is from the New England Open House Cookbook via Vermont Creamery, which used its exquisite cultured butter and crème fraîche. Chopped scallions create a piquant counterpoint to the rich dairy.

The garnish is optional, but adds excitement to an already yummy dish. Crème fraîche or sour cream, plus fresh chopped scallions, are a delightful finish.

We have three more cornbread recipes for your perusal:

  • Buffalo Chicken Cornbread With Blue Cheese Salad
  • Queso Fresco & Scallion Cornbread
  • Marcus Samuelsson’s Jalapeño Cornbread (video recipe)
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    RECIPE: SKILLET CORNBREAD

    Ingredients

  • 1-1/3 cup cornmeal
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-3/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup buttermilk (you can make your own—see footnote*)
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 cup fresh corn, cut from the cob
  • Optional: 1-2 tablespoon fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • Optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh jalapeños, mixed red and green, or to taste
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • 8 ounces crème fraîche (you can make your own) (substitute sour cream)
  • 2-3 scallions or fresh herbs (basil, chives, cilantro, parsley, sage, thyme), chopped
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 375°F. Mix together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a large bowl.

    2. WHISK together in another bowl the milk, buttermilk and eggs. Pour in the melted butter and stir well. Add these wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir till combined. Gently fold in the corn kernels.

    3. POUR into the prepared cast iron skillet. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until done.

    4. TO SERVE: Top with crème fraîche and a sprinkle of scallions.
     
    ________________
    *To make buttermilk, just add a tablespoon of distilled white vinegar to a cup measure and add enough milk to make an even cup. Let stand five minutes.

     
    THE HISTORY OF CORNBREAD

    Corn, which originated in what today is Mexico, was turned into flatbread–the tortilla—in its native land. Leavened breads were not indigenous, and the concept of raised bread wasn’t known until the arrival of the Spanish.

    As corn spread from Mexico northward, it was cultivated by Native Americans across the southern region of what is now the United States. When European settlers arrived, they learned to cultivate and cook corn from the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Creek.

    The North American natives had also learned to make another unleavened cornbread, in the form of flat oval cakes or loaves. Mixing cornmeal and water, they cooked the batter in hot ashes.

    The Europeans called it cornpone, or pone. Pone is a shortened version of the Virginia Algonquian word for bread, appone; although pone is fried cooked gruel rather than flatbread (the fine points can be argued, but not here and now).

     

    The immigrant Europeans added some salt and fried the mixture in lard in their skillets. Skillet breads, pies, etc. date back generations before people had home ovens, much less baking pans. Everything was cooked over a fire in a cast iron pot or a skillet; or in some towns, in a central community oven.

    In parts of England, hoe was a colloquial term for griddle. The tale that hoe cakes were cooked by field workers on their hoes over a fire is a story perpetuated but not substantiated.

    The fried corn batter is also known as hoe cakes and johnnycakes. Today, outside the South, we call them corn pancakes.

    Here’s a recipe for hoecakes and for johnnycakes; the photos are below.
     
    Johnnycake is similar, The modern johnnycake is found in the cuisine of New England, A modern johnnycake is fried cornmeal gruel, which is made from yellow or white cornmeal mixed with salt and hot water or milk, and sometimes sweetened

    The immigrants adapted cornmeal to their European recipes: bread loaves and muffins, corncakes, fritters, hoecakes and pancakes, liquor, porridge and so on. Most people had little cooking equipment. The skillet served multiple purposes, from frying to baking.

    Cornbread became popular as the main ingredient for a dressing or stuffing with fowl (the difference: stuffing is cooked inside the bird; dressing is cooked in a separate pan).
     
    What Is Cornmeal?

    Cornmeal is produced by grinding dried raw corn grains. The finest grind is used for baking, a medium grind for porridge and polenta, and a coarse grind for grits. Raw corn kernels spoked in hot water and an alkaline mineral like calcium hydroxide is called hominy (pozole in Spanish) and ground and mixed into masa harina, the dough used to make tamales and tortillas.

    Cornbread can be baked or fried, even steamed. Steamed cornbread is more like cornmeal pudding or mush, moist and chewier than a traditional bread. Here’s more on the evolution of cornbread plus early cornbread recipes.

    One thing to note: Originally cornbread did not contain sugar. As disposable income increased, this expensive ingredient was added as a variation, to make cornbread more like a cake.

    Unfortunately, more and more sugar was added until cornbread became an overly-sweet, simple bread. That’s fine if you want cake; you can serve sweet cornbread with berries and whipped cream.

    But if it’s bread you want, lose the sugar. We prefer to add whole corn kernels for sweetness, or enjoy cornbread as a savory bread.
     
    CRÈME FRAÎCHE, MASCARPONE OR SOUR CREAM?

    When should you use which? Here are the differences.

    Here are the differences.

     

    Corn Pone

    Johnnycakes

    Original Corn Plant

    [1] Hoecakes. Here’s the recipe from the Wall Street Journal (photo Christopher Testani | Wall Street Journal). [2] Johnnycakes come in different shapes—flatter, plumper, individual or the size of an entire skillet. Here’s the recipe for these pancake-syle johnnycakes from About.SouthernFood.com. [3] Who would have imagined that the wisp at the left evolved into the plump ear of corn we know today? Here’s the whole story.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Instant Holiday Ice Cream

    Christmas Ice Cream

    Turn any flavor into “Christmas” ice cream with red and green sanding sugar. If you want to save calories, check out Halo Top: our favorite of the low-calorie ice creams with just 240 calories for the entire pint. And it has extra protein—really! Here’s our review (photo courtesy Halo Top),

     

    When you hear “Christmas ice cream,” you probably think of candy cane (a.k.a. peppermint stick) ice cream.

    We love it and gobble it up over the holiday season. But not everyone is a mint fan.

    So here’s the easiest way ever to serve Christmas ice cream:

    Sprinkle colored sanding sugar over the top.

    Sanding sugar, also called colored sugar, decorating sugar, nibbed sugar, pearl sugar or sugar nibs, is coarse granulated sugar.

    It’s processed to have larger granules that sparkle, and is used to decorate candies, cookies, cupcakes, sweet breads and other baked goods. You can find it in white as well as a rainbow of colors.
     
    SPRINKLE YOUR HOLIDAY COLORS

    For Christmas, sprinkle red and green sugars on ice cream.

    For Chanukah, get blue and white sugars.

    For Kwanzaa, get black, red and green.

    For New Year’s Eve: gold and silver.

     
    Use the colors of any special occasion for an instant celebration dessert.

    You can find sanding sugar in some supermarkets, baking supply stores and online sites like TheBakersKitchen.net. Here’s their selection of colored sugars.

    CHECK OUT THE DIFFERENT TYPES OF SUGAR IN OUR SUGAR & SYRUP GLOSSARY.

     
      

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    FOOD FUN: Poinsettia Hors d’Oeuvre

    .

    Turn spinach dip into poinsettia hors d’oeuvre.

    The ones in the top photo, from Mackenzie Limited.

    They have a base of focaccia bread topped with creamy spinach dip with a hint of truffle oil. The flower is made from piped goat cheese flower.

    We created our own version of the canapés, which pair well with beer, wine or a savory Martini.

    They are best assembled as close as possible to serving time, although you can prepare the spread and other ingredients in advance.

    RECIPE: POINSETTIA CANAPÉS

    Ingredients

  • Base of choice: bread or toast rounds or squares
  • Spinach spread of choice (or other green spread)
  • Cheese of choice: cream cheese spread, goat cheese spread or other pipeable cheese
  • Flower center: piece of peppadew, pimento or sundried tomato
  • Piping bag (or substitute) and tip
  •  
    Preparation

    1. CUT the bread into rounds with a 1-1/2″ cookie cutter and top with some of the spread. Place on a serving tray.

    2. PIPE five petals on top of each and add the red center.
     
    WHAT’S A CANAPÉ?

    A canapé (can-uh-PAY) is a type of hors d’oeuvre: a small, savory bite on a base of bread, pastry, toast or a cracker. It is cocktail party fare, a finger food eaten in one or two bites.

       

    spinach-goat-cheese-focaccia-mackenzieltd-230r

    Poinsettia Hors d'Oeuvre

    [1] White poinsettia goat cheese blossoms atop a spinach and foccaccia base (photo courtesy Mackenzie Ltd.). [2] This version uses roasted red peppers to create the flower and fresh thyme leaves and flowers for the center (photo courtesy Tara’s Table caterers).

     
    Canapé is the French word for sofa. The idea is that the toppings sit on a “sofa” of bread or pastry. In the hands of a good caterer or chef, they can be beautifully decorated works of edible art.

    The translation of “hors d’oeuvre” means “[dishes] outside the work” i.e., outside the main meal. Technically, the term “hors d’oeuvre” refers to small, individual food items that have been prepared by a cook.

    Beyond canapés, hors d’oeuvre include everything from deviled eggs and crab puffs to mini-quiches to rumaki (bacon-wrapped dates). There are scores of options in French cuisine alone.

     

    Poinsettia Plant

    A poinsettia plant (photo courtesy 1-800-Flowers).

     

    ABOUT THE POINSETTIA PLANT

    Native to southern Mexico, what we call the poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) was used for dye and decorative purposes by the Aztecs. The milky white sap, today called latex, was made into a preparation to treat fevers.

    Cuetlaxochitl, the Aztec name for the plant, is actually a small tree. It was bred down to a tabletop plant, although you may still come across a lovely small tree at better florists.

    In Mexico, it blooms naturally in Mexico around Christmastime. The poinsettia achieved fame in the U.S. thanks to Joel Roberts Poinsett, the first U.S. Ambassador to Mexico (1825-1829), who had been a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    An amateur botanist, he sent spectacular plant to botanist colleagues in the U.S. for breeding. It became known as the poinsettia (try pronouncing cuetlaxochitl). Its vibrant red color made it a natural for holiday decorations, and it was subsequently bred into pink and white varieties as well.

     
    Ambassador Poinsett later served as Secretary of War under Martin Van Buren, and was a co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science and the Useful Arts, a predecessor of the Smithsonian Institution).

    Note that his name is Poinsett, not Pointsett; there is no “pointsettia” plant.

    Congress honored Joel Poinsett by declaring December 12th as National Poinsettia Day.

      

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    HOLIDAY COCKTAIL: Christmas Martini Recipe

    Christmas Martini

    Christmas Martini

    Pickled Cauliflower

    Castelvetrano Olives

    Fresh Dill

    [1] [2] It’s a Christmas Martini (photos courtesy World Market). [3] You can find actual rose and purple cauliflower heads at farmers markets, but at this time of year, you may have to color your own with beet juice. Here’s a recipe for pickled cauliflower and beets from The Galanter’s Kitchen. [4] Castelvetrano olives are the greenest, for Christmas garnishing. [5] Fresh dill, along with rosemary, are the two most Christmasy herbs: They look like evergreens (photo courtesy Burpee).

     

    Is there such a thing as a Christmas Martini?

    According to us: Yes!

    We’re not talking a peppermint “Martini” garnished with candy canes, but a real, savory vodka/gin-and-vermouth cocktail as its creators intended it to be (here’s the history of the Martini).

    We adapted this Dill Martini recipe from WorldMarket.com and gave it more holiday spirit.

    If you switch the evergreen-like dill to chive or other herb and perhaps make all the pickles red or pink, you can serve this as a Valentine Martini as well.
     
    RECIPE: CHRISTMAS MARTINI

    Ingredients Per Drink

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 1/2 ounce pickle brine*
  • Splash of dry vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Large sprig of fresh dill
  • Beet juice
  • Ice
  •  
    For The Garnish

  • Cauliflower floret pickled in brine and beet juice†
  • Fresh grape tomato
  • Baby radish, pickled or not
  • Pimento-stuffed green olive or pitted Castelventrano olive (it’s bright green)
  • Whole baby beet (from can or jar, regular or pickled)
  • Cocktail pick
  •  
    ________________
    *If you make pickled vegetables, you can use your homemade brine.

    *If you aren’t using beets, you can buy a bottle of beet juice (delicious!) at a natural- or health-food store.
    ________________
     
    Preparation

    1. PICKLE the vegetables as desired and make the cocktail pick.

    2. COMBINE the vodka, pickle brine, vermouth mustard seeds, and fresh dill in a cocktail shaker. Shake and pour into a glass.

    2. ADD enough beet juice until you get the color you want (an assertive blush as in the photo is a good start).

    3. ADD ice to the shaker along with the contents of the glass. Shake well, strain into a coupe or Martini glass and garnish with the vegetable pick.
     
    HOW TO MAKE PICKLED VEGETABLES

    It couldn’t be easier to make “quick pickles”: just the vegetables, vinegar, spices and two hours to marinate.

    You can pickle just about any vegetable, and you can also pickle fruits: from grapes to sliced fruits.

  • Use your favorite spices in the brine. Look at your spices for inspiration: allspice, bay leaf, crushed red peppers, dill seed, juniper berries, mace, mustard seed, and peppercorns are all contenders. Pickled vegetables never met a spice they didn’t like. We often add a touch of nutmeg.
  • For the brine, use cider vinegar or other vinegar (you can use half vinegar and half salted water if you like). To color white veggies like cauliflower red, add beet to the brine. Be sure the brine covers the tops of the vegetables.
  • You can add sugar and or salt to the brine; but make a batch without them first. It’s healthier, and it will let the flavor of the spices shine through.
  • Pickles will be ready in just two hours; although you can keep them in the fridge for a few weeks (trust us, they will eaten quickly).
  •  
    Since these pickled vegetables aren’t sterilized in a water bath, they need to be kept in the fridge. Eat them within two weeks (more likely, they’ll be gone in two days).

    If you’re excited about pickling, pick up a book on the topic. The Joy Of Pickling, first published in 1999, is now in its second edition.

    You may find yourself making classic bread-and-butter and dill pickles, pickled beets and kimchi.

  • Check out our Pickle Glossary for the different types of pickles.
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    RECIPE: Pomegranate Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    Christmas Cheese Ball

    [1] The Christmas Cheese Ball, festive with cocktails. This recipe, from How Sweet Eats, is made with with white cheddar, mascarpone and sage. [2] The Café Sucre Farine is made with Monterey Jack, pecans, rosemary and thyme. Minced parsley accents the arils for an even better holiday effect. [3] Our original inspiration was this red and green cheese ball from Go Bold With Butter (recipe below).

     

    Deck the hall with this festive almond-Gruyère/Swiss Cheese cheese ball.

    Parsley colors the interior green, while the pomegranate arils create a crimson cloak.

    Bonus: Prep time is 15 minutes, and you can make it two days in advance. Thanks to Go Bold With Butter for the recipe.

    RECIPE #1: CHRISTMAS CHEESE BALL

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup pomegranate arils
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces Gruyère/Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 [heaping] cup slivered almonds
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons horseradish mustard (recipe below)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or ½ parsley, ½ chives)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  •  
    For Serving

  • Bagel chips
  • Breads
  • Crackers and crisps
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PAT the arils dry with paper towels, ensuring removing as much moisture as possible. You can do this an hour or more in advance and leave the arils on paper towels on the counter to further dry.

    2. PLACE the cheeses and butter along with almonds, horseradish mustard, parsley and seasonings in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently until ingredients are well combined.

    3. SHAPE the mixture into cheese mixture into a large ball and refrigerate. can be made up to 2 days ahead, wrapped and stored in refrigerator. Before serving…

    4. ROLL the ball in pomegranate arils until fully coated. Gently press the arils into the heese ball to adhere. To serve, place on plate with breads, crackers and spreaders.
     
    RECIPE #2: HORSERADISH MUSTARD

    We tend to keep sugar away from where it doesn’t need to be—in savory foods. We just don’t enjoy sugary potato chips or wasabi-flavored mustard. (Honey mustard gets a pass.)

    Numerous recipes for cheese balls contain a sweetened condiment: honey, maple syrup, sugar brown sugar. It’s the same with horseradish mustard.

    We don’t mind a brief hint of sweetness; but if a cheese ball tastes sweet (and it isn’t a sweet style, e.g. with dried fruit, or a dessert ball), it’s too sweet for us.

    Since the cheese ball recipe requires just 1-1/2 teaspoons of the mustard, you can adjust the amounts below accordingly.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • Optional: sour cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone or plain yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Preparation

    1. DRAIN the horseradish in a fine strainer or cheesecloth, pushing down with the back of a spoon to remove the excess liquid.

    2. COMBINE with the mustard, mix well and taste. If it’s too strong for you, you can add a bit of sour cream to remove some of the spiciness.But remember, mixing the mustard with the cream cheese will temper the heat.
     
    Variation

    Make a mustard horseradish sauce for meat or poultry, simply by adding one cup of sour cream to recipe above.
     
    MORE CHEESE BALL RECIPES

  • Mini Cheese Balls With Green, Red and Golden Coatings
  • Pecan Pine Cone Cheese Ball (yes, it’s made in the shape of a pine cone)
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