The first year I lived in Albuquerque I was working as an Americorps volunteer on a very small stipend, and therefore in need of some supplemental income to make ends meet. All through out university I had learned that one of the best side jobs you could ever have was working in the food industry- either at a cafe, restaurant or brewery, as most jobs not only came with cash to pay the bills, but the extra added bonus of either a meal covered whilst on the job, or extras to take home, that would have otherwise been thrown away at the end of the night.There were two places that I worked that first year, in addition to my primary job – the first was called Dessert Willow; a quirky little house-turned cafe and gallery that had originally been the owner’s grandmother’s home. I worked there most Saturday mornings and always ended the day taking home extra pastries that I would pop into the toaster oven of my kitchen-less studio apartment, slather with butter, and eat for breakfast the following few days. To me, they were nearly as good as fresh. The kitchen was tiny, yet everything we served was homemade. Sadly the cafe closed about eight months after I started working there, but it was one of the highlights of my first year in New Mexico. It was always filled with the most interesting people, mostly artists and musicians, looking to linger over their smothered breakfast burritos before carrying on with their day.
I also worked a few evenings a week at a sadly now defunct brewery called Chama River Brewing Company, where I hosted and provided bread service for all of the tables. There were always at least three choices of breads on offer, of which I carried around in a basket a-la little red riding hood, wielding a set of tongs and serving endless supplies to anyone who wanted. It was here I discovered Chile Cheese Cornbread.
Made with Hatch chiles, cornmeal, kernels of sweetcorn and copious amounts of cheese, butter and sour cream, I would often times stand in the kitchen and shovel corn muffins into my mouth before making my bread girl rounds, most often having come straight from my Americorps job and walking right into dinner service. I was permanently covered in cornmeal crumbs down the front of my shirt and have no doubt customers were clearly aware I was sampling the goods in the back. Thankfully no one seemed to mind too much.
This recipe comes as close to my memory of those corn muffins as I’ve found.
Three things to note:
- I have intentionally toned down the heat (originally recipe called for 2 tins-worth of chiles) in hopes my kids will actually try it. I think New Mexican children are practically weaned on green chile – so mine will be slower on the spice-tolerance learning curve. If it were just me eating this I’d add more heat… so take that into account when deciding how much you want.
- This recipe also creates very cakey, moist cornbread. If you want yours a bit drier to use for scooping up beans or soup or what have you, simply use a slightly bigger baking pan so the heat will reach and absorb more of the moisture from the batter.
- Do make sure to dust off the front of your shirt before mingling with strangers after eating this no matter how you make it. A solid tip I learned through experience.
New Mexican Style Chile Cheese Cornbread
slightly adapted from the community website I Am New Mexico
- 250g (1 cup) cornmeal (if you can’t find cornmeal polenta works as an ok sub)
- 250g (1 cup) plain white flour
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda or bicarb
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 50g (1/4 cup) unrefined sugar (I used brown coconut sugar)
- 125g (1/2 cup) salted butter, room temperature and softened
- 125ml (1/2 cup) sour cream or creme fraiche
- 2 eggs, room temperature
- 375ml (1 1/2 cups) whole milk
- 1 tin medium spiced Hatch green chiles, chopped (freshly roasted chiles are ALWAYS better if available)
- 250g (1 cup) sweetcorn, frozen and thawed or tinned and drained
- 250g (1 cup) cheese- cheddar, grated
Preheat oven to 200°C/400°F. Grease and line an 9×9 inch or 23cm baking dish with parchment paper (larger if drier texture is desired).
Then, in a large bowl mix together the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda or bicarb. In a separate large bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar until smooth. Then add the sour cream or creme fraiche and eggs – one at a time- to the butter/sugar mixture until smooth and well combined.
Slowly add in the 1/3 of the milk followed by 1/3 of the dry ingredients. Continue to mix, alternating between wet and dry ingredients until thoroughly combined Lastly add in the green chile (feel free to use more if you like), corn and cheese.
Pour mixture into prepared baking dish and bake for 30 – 35 minutes, until the top, is golden brown, the center is firm to the touch, and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
Remove from oven and let cool for about 10-15 minutes before removing from tin and serving. Resist temptation! Removing it any sooner and you run the risk of the bread completely falling apart.