Friday, May 17, 2013

Chorizo Corn Muffin With a Smoked Chipotle Center

Fig.1. Hot muffins: Warning, center is spicy.

I love corn, chorizo, green onions, and smoked chipotle peppers, so it occurred to me in the middle of the night a few weeks ago to make a muffin out of all these things.
While I’ve used corn meal often in the past when making polenta, corn bread is a different thing altogether, and as such, corn meal research was in my future. 
Most corn bread recipes in the American South call for stone ground cornmeal, which means that the hull and the germ of the corn are left in during the grind, and whole corn means more corn flavor. There are different grinds when it comes to corn meal and I tried this recipe with both a course grind, and a fine grind: the fine grind produced a softer, more enjoyable muffin.  Course grinds can be fun, especially if you're going old school and making corn bread in a cast iron skillet. There's a textural difference when using course-grind corn meal, evident with every crunch and in the many pieces of ground corn that will lodge between your teeth.
Decades ago in Italy, before foods became overly processed and people knew how to use their teeth, all polenta was course grind, (especially in the farmlands where mills comprised of 2 large stone disks pulled by oxen.) because the corn was course (a texture akin to small pebbles), the polenta had to be cooked for a long time (45 minutes to an hour) in order to soften and turn to mush.  This is why older Italian ladies will tell you that making polenta builds your arm muscles, as the polenta needed to be stirred constantly. This might have been true 50 years ago, but today, with corn meal ground so fine it could slip through an hourglass in 60 seconds flat, one just needs to add water and it's ready. (How did this become about Italy when it was supposed to be about corn bread in the American South? A trip south of the Mason-Dixon is in my future.)

Chorizo and Smoked Chipotle Corn Muffin
Makes 12

The idea for the smoked chipotle center was inspired by a visit to Tim Horton’s no less. They had a muffin on display whose center contained a menacing ‘fruit explosion’.  Because I ponder upon my recipes for days, weeks and months at a time, the smoked chipotle jelly inserted itself into the mental construct of my imagined corn muffin. There’s something to be said about imagination and cooking: the cook gets to create that which he imagines; what was once a dream becomes reality. (Dam this god complex of mine!) These muffins are great for those outdoor BBQ parties and pairs well with meat and beer. They also freeze well for up to 3 months or so.

Fig.2. Ingredients at the ready


20oz or 3 cups of finely, stone ground cornmeal
½ cup bread flour
2 tsp kosher salt
3 tbsp sugar
2 ½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups buttermilk
3 eggs
14oz or 398ml creamed corn (I use a 398ml can)
2 cups of chopped chorizo (ask a Portuguese friend where to get this, it’s not hard to find)
1 cup green onions, chopped small
12 small pieces of smoked chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, the size depends on how much heat you can handle. (you can get this at any grocery store in the ‘Latin’ section)


Spray the muffin tin with a none stick spray (make sure you spray the inside rounds as well as the top of the tin) and insert a muffin wrapper in each round. Preheat over to 375 degrees.
In a large bowl, add the ground cornmeal, bread flour, salt, sugar, baking powder, and baking soda and whisk all the dry ingredients till combined.  In another large bowl, add the buttermilk, eggs, and creamed corn and mix well until all combined. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and fold it all together. Fold in the chopped chorizo and the green onions.  Scoop the batter into the lined muffin tin. (I use an ice cream scooper for this.) Top the center of each muffin with a piece of the smoked chipotle pepper, press it in a little. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffin comes out with some crumbs attached.

Fig.3. The wet ingredients. Mental note: try this on Shepard's Pie.

Fig.4. Had to put another picture because they're so nice.

Fig.5. Richard Nelson's American Cooking.  
The book above (Fig.5.) is entitled American Cooking by Richard Nelson. Nelson "championed the cause of good cooking in the United States", (James Beard) during a time when the aroma of quick-and-easy, frozen food began emanating from TV Dinners across America. Nelson's book has some great corn-meal recipes: Tamale Pie, Cornmeal Mush, Corn Chili Bread, Cornmeal Dumplings, Cornmeal and Parmesan Cheese, Grits, Johnny Cakes, Spoon Bread, Corn Bread With Sausage, and Texas Skillet Corn Meal. A great book if American style cooking interests you.

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