Friday, January 7, 2011

Cheddar-Jalapeño-(Bacon) Cornbread Muffins

Hey, it's been a whole year since this little blog came into being! Easily one of the crazier years of my life, but I've enjoyed cooking my way through it and sharing that with anyone kind enough to stop by and read the recipes. So a big thanks to anyone reading this, as there isn't much of a point without an audience :) Now, back to cooking!

These muffins were originally conceived for the Iowa-Penn State tailgate, to go along with a very formidable batch of venison chili. While my first attempt at these had several major problems, I made them again for a dinner party a few weeks ago and they were very well received. I split the batch into two halves, one that included bacon and one without for the vegetarians in attendance.
These muffins became an idea while I was watching the Food Network while at the gym (yes, I watch cooking shows while running... it's the only place that has cable!). This recipe doesn't come from any one show or chef, but is a combination of several, which is part of why I like watching the Food Network so much. Even when I don't follow their recipes exactly, it gives me great ideas for new things to try and ways to change up old recipes.

A few words/suggestions for this recipe. One, and most importantly, be really careful when handling and chopping jalapeños! The oils on these will stick around on your fingers/cutting board/knifes and can do some serious damage if you get them on your face or in your eyes. To avoid this, I know some people who wear plastic disposable gloves when prepping jalapeños, which is certainly the safest option. Otherwise, just make sure to wash your hands very, very, VERY thoroughly -- and it doesn't hurt to throw some salt on with the soap, to exfoliate a bit and really get all the oil out of the finger grooves. Additionally, this recipe can easily be made in a 9x13" pan for square cornbread servings instead of muffins, I just prefer my cornbread in muffin-form.

Cheddar-Jalapeño-Bacon Cornbread Muffins
Makes 2 dozen muffins or a 9x13" pan

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
2 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 cups milk
3 large eggs, beaten
2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
2 cup shredded sharp-cheddar cheese
~3Tbs jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped (I use ~3 medium sized jalapeños for some extra kick)

*Optional: bacon, cooked until crispy and then chopped. 7 pieces was enough for this 1/2 batch, but it's really up to you how much to throw in!
**If using bacon, omit the salt!

1. If using bacon, cook the bacon in a skillet on the stove. It will be necessary to drain the grease halfway through cooking, in order for the bacon to crisp as it continues cooking.

2. Remove bacon from the pan and let cool/drain a plate covered with a few layers of paper towels.
3. Combine the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.
4. In a smaller bowl, whisk the milk, eggs and butter together.
5. If using bacon, chop into very fine pieces.
6. Using a wooden spoon, stir the went ingredients into the dry, until most lumps are dissolved but don't over-stir!
7. Stir in the cheese, jalapeños and bacon bits (if desired) until evenly distributed.
8. Allow the mix to sit at room temperature for ~20 minutes. During this time, preheat the oven to 350º and grease whichever baking pan you're using.
9. Spoon the batter into the muffin tins or spread evenly across the 9x13" pan.
10. If making muffins, check at 12 minutes -- they're done when a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. If using a 9x13", bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the toothpick comes out clean.
11. Allow to cool completely or cool for 5-10 minutes and then serve warm.

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