Cornbread really pisses me off; always has. I ADORE the taste of it, but it’s so disappointing to make, and even harder to navigate. The boxed kind is totally weak, and lacks substance, flavor, texture, and imagination. Boxed cornbread is the devil. Even the homemade kind is a pain, though. It’s all about the texture and maneuverability. It falls apart and leaves crumbs all over the place unless you wad it into a dense ball, held together by a thick paste of honey and butter. The only part of the cornbread that really stays in place is the crusty part that actually comes into contact with the skillet. So I decided I’d had enough! I put my foot down! I wanted cornbread that could keep up with the fast-paced life that accompanies a delicious chili! And I still wanted to pile it high with a meringue of honey butter! Dammit! Phew. So I introduce to you my prototype for a hearty, tasty, flavorful, cornbread–the corncake. It’s basically a solid buttermilk cornbread batter (solid in its integrity, not literally solid), but instead of only allowing a thin layer to touch the skillet, ALL of it touches the skillet. It’s cooked just like a pancake. And to add further heartiness, I used the roughly-hewn, stone ground cornmeal. It’s gritty, it’s earthy, like an indy documentary of awesome. And I still slathered the little beeyatch with honey butter. Hoorah!
It’s partnered up with the kind of chili that makes you want to saddle up a horse and eat directly from an iron pot on a fire, if it weren’t for the ants and discomfort of camping.
I made the chili with some festive ingredients. It had the old standbys of cumin, chili powder, garlic, onion, tomato, bell pepper, beef, and beans (pinto and kidney, working side by side all amicable-like). But it also had some newcomers. Like cinnamon, beer, adobo peppers in their thick, vinegary sauce, and….a big hunk of bittersweet chocolate. Chocolate and cinnamon seem like preposterous things to put in chili, but I assure you–they add a rich, deep, subtle sweetness that’s almost like you took a regular chili, added a dark, silken cape and top hat, and all of a sudden the chili could do MAGIC. Yeah. That’s what it was like.
And here’s a somewhat blurry picture of dessert (I was so excited to eat it, I was probably shaking). It’s a chocolate cupcake baked in a mini-brioche pan so the little “feet” get crunchy while the middle stays soft and fluffy. It was topped with a dollop of homemade strawberry jam, a couple of chocolate curls, and a vanilla bourbon sauce tinted with Chambord (black raspberry liquer). It was awesome, and a really good compromise. See, I had to bake a cake for Chris’s grand rounds this Friday, and in order to avoid eating all the batter while baking, I abstained completely and used 1/4 cup of the batter, not a noticable extraction from the cake, to make two little brioche cupcakes. I’m a genius of weight loss. Except for the whole “not having lost the weight yet” part.