Smoke is everywhere. No matter what you do you cannot escape it. You try desperately to breathe. To let some sort of fresh air into your lungs, so as to relieve the burning – at the back of your throat – from the smoke and coughing fit you just endured. Your eyes begin to water and tears start to stream down your face. It’s something you cannot avoid because the two go hand in hand. You wipe them away from your eyes as if this will allow you to suddenly see what’s going on around you. The chaos that has ensued for the last twenty minutes seems like it is never going to come to an end. You pick up a scrap piece of cardboard, you find lying on the concrete ground, and you begin to fan the smoke away. You move your arms rapidly, in an up and down maneuver similar to a bird about to take flight. Desperately seeking to clear a path, not sure if what you are doing is helping or making matters worse. Yet through bursts of light you see the gray smoke fading into the clear sky. As the haziness all around you begins to dissipate, you catch sight of the now taming fire. Your mind back on track at the task at hand. The once frightening flames emitting from the tiny grill are now docile and manageable. You chuckle and think to yourself how silly it all was, and say a little prayer thanking the universe for not sending the fire department your way.
Now that the smoke scare is over, you dump the flaming coals out of the chimney and into the grill. Replace the grate and begin to cook dinner. Lazy weekend evenings go from uneventful to fun and exciting in a matter of minutes. It isn’t so much the food that you cook – for it could be a simple feast of hamburgers and hot dogs – but rather the experience of having people over and cooking outside. Everyone gathered around in the backyard, throwing back some cold ones. Music playing softly in the background, the distinct chatter of the guests rising through it all, as the sun begins to set and the smell of grilling meat is all around. The splash of water from the pool is a welcoming sound with the refreshing feeling of happiness. Happiness because you look around and realize that all you’ve ever needed is right there around you. Surrounding you. Hugging you. Good food, good company and the prospect of good memories on the horizon. With the content feeling that many more days like these, await you all summer.
As this warm season approaches – three days to be exact – we begin to welcome afternoons at the park or evenings spent outside barbecuing. Where people do not shine in the kitchen, it seems impressive that they shine in front of the grill. Perhaps it’s the whole experience. The lighting of the wood or coals, and the idea of being in command of something semi-dangerous. Whether it is an extravagant feast on the fire or a simple meal for the modest, outdoor eating is something to treasure especially during the warm months of June and July and August. It allows us all to step out of our comfort zones and experience something fun and thrilling. Perhaps potlucks to friends and neighbors’ homes are what you’re used to. Whatever the case might be, there are certain recipes that are meant to be made for particular occasions. When talk of grilling, barbecues, potlucks, or outdoor eating arises, corn bread automatically enters my mind. It invades my train of thought, one of which I cannot shake off. The idea of the sweat and savory along with such classic dishes of potato salad, grilled chicken drenched in barbecue sauce with the crisp, coolness of coleslaw. You need something to mop up all those delicious accouterments. A bread treat of some sort. So when the corn is in season and the stalks are up and high above your head, and you have more ears than you know what to do with – roast the hell out of it – and make yourself a big batch of corn muffins. Throw in a few treasures like jalapeños, scallions and cheddar cheese and watch the face of those around go from happy to ecstatic. Who knew that corn muffins had that affect on people? Or rather, who knew that summer could be so much fun?
We’re going to start with the corn.
I’m using fresh corn. A) because it tastes the best and B) because it is in season.
So might as well utilize it.
But alas, if you have frozen kernels you want to use up – by all means use them here.
Stay away from the canned corn for this recipe.
Or for any recipe for that matter.
Let’s go back to our fresh corn though.
Peel and rinse. Pat dry and place on a baking sheet lined with a piece of aluminum foil (easy clean up).
That corn has a gold tooth. Can you spot it?
Place the pan under the broiler, keeping a close eye on it, turning occasionally. Continue broiling until the corn is somewhat charred and golden all around.
If some kernels get black, do not worry. It gives these muffins character. Just do not burn the whole corn.
Once done, remove the corn from the pan, and allow it to cool down completely.
In the meantime, let’s work on the batter shall we?
We begin with a large empty bowl.
I know you all must be thinking I’m losing my mind – clearly.
This is my second post in a row where I do not use my handy dandy stand mixer. What’s going on with me?
I have not given it away just yet, it’s just that it is crucial that this batter not be overmixed. I feel that using the mixer would increase my chances of overmixing the batter rendering my muffins tough, dry and rubbery.
I do not like to see any of those qualities in my muffins. On the contrary, I want soft, moist, and delicious muffins.
Plus this is the easiest thing to do by hand – hardly any work at all.
Into the bowl, pour the:
All-Purpose Flour Cornmeal Whole Wheat Flour
Sugar Salt Baking Soda
Baking Powder Cinnamon Dry Ingredients
I know, cinnamon? Cinnamon in a savory jalapeño cheddar corn muffin? But trust me, it’s just a little bit. And that little bit of my favorite spice, is going to make all the difference.
Surprisingly, it compliments all the flavors perfectly. And it’s not like anyone is going to be able to taste it and say “Susie, is there cinnamon in these here muffins?”
Okay, I do not know who Susie is. But whoever she is – and where ever she is – she must be making jalapeño cheddar corn muffins with cinnamon. Kudos Susie.
Give the dry ingredients a toss up. A mix up. A blend up with a spoon.
Lucky for me, my mixing utensil happens to be famous.
Now that the dry ingredients are mixed, let’s work on the important and tasty ingredients.
I’m using two. If you are one to stray away from heat, just use one. Although using two gives them the tiniest of a heat kick.
Two is still I-can-have-ten-muffins-and-not-feel-pain bearable. And if I can eat these muffins with two jalapeños, then you definitely can.
At the same time if you like heat and want to get your lips and mouth scorched with heat, then by all means, add more. Use as many as you’d like.
Either way, cut off the top end. Slice in half, length-wise, and scoop out the veins and seeds.
First thing. Note. Use a spoon to remove the veins and seeds. If you use your bare hands, the heat will linger – even after several washes – and then you forget and rub your eyes or face and then cut to you in severe pain ten minutes later, crying your eyes out from the heat. Thats a pretty sight.
So let’s be extra super duper careful and prevent that fiasco from occurring. You do not want people laughing at you from being in pain right? (Believe me it happens). So use a spoon.
Second thing. Note. All the heat – okay most of it. 90% of it. – lives in the veins and seeds. So by removing them you are removing most of the unbearable heat. The kind that makes grown people cry and get red in the face. The kind that gets you laughs and stares.
Give them a chop. Small pieces.
The next ingredient are scallions.
Green onions, if you will.
I like adding these for color and for a hint of mellow onion flavor.
Run your knife through them, making thin slices.
Remember that corn from earlier? You know, the two ears of corn we worked on? The beautifully charred and golden-brown-to-perfection, ears of corn?
Well they’ve cooled down now.
Grab them, and cut off the kernels.
I cut the kernels off while the corn is flat, on a horizontal.
Most people like to do this while the corn is standing on one end. I find that cutting it that way makes the kernels fly everywhere. So you end up losing precious corn kernels. And you’re more prone to injury.
Try it horizontal and you’ll see how your corn cutting world will change. You’ll want to cut kernels off of thousands upon thousands of ears of corn. You’ll find any excuse to use fresh corn in your daily cooking sessions.
Do this for both ears of corn until all the kernels are off the cob.
Our last ingredient is the cheddar.
Fresh sharp ched-dah.
Grate it fresh.
Once all the ingredients have been prepped, add them to the dry ingredient mixture.
Give all the ingredients a toss. I, yours truly, of course picked a not big enough bowl for this process.
Learn from my mistake and grab a big bowl.
I’ll make do.
Since my bowl is too small – proving it to be a difficult task to mix with the spoon – and because I like to get my hands dirty, I’m going to use my hands. Any excuse really.
Feel free to use yours as well. After all they do make the best kitchen utensils. They’re free as well. Can’t beat that.
You just want to make sure that everything is evenly coated in the dry ingredients.
Note the last image in that set; that’s how it should look like.
Okay, now for the wet ingredients.
Grab a bowl or big measuring cup to mix the ingredients in.
Add the buttermilk.
And two eggs.
And let the whisking commence.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry.
This here is the step that can ruin your muffins. Fold the ingredients carefully, to assure that you won’t overmix anything. Fold until just incorporated. The batter will be very lumpy.
Oh, I forgot. Add a bit of freshly cracked black pepper.
At this stage if the batter is really thick and there are still some dry spots, add a bit more buttermilk (a little at a time) until you reach the consistency pictured below.
One final mix and you’re done.
Line a cupcake pan with liners.
You don’t have to use cupcake liners if you do not want to. Some like that corn bread rustic, no-paper look. I don’t.
If you don’t use the liners, just grease the pans.
I don’t want to ruin my clean cupcake pans. So I use liners. Plus I feel like it keeps them moist. Who knows if it actually does? But I like to think so.
As always, when making muffins or cupcakes of sorts, I like to use an ice cream scoop.
This ensures that they cook at the same time and are all even in size. Plus it’s easier, so that always makes me happy.
Start scooping and dropping.
This recipe will give you two dozen muffins.
Repeat the process with the second tray.
These are ready to hit the oven.
Bake until golden brown in a 350° oven for about 12-15 minutes. Maybe more, maybe less, depending on your oven. Watch them like a hawk. Just don’t keep opening the oven door because that will deflate them quicker than you can say “Hey my jalapeño cheddar corn muffins are deflating.”
Or until a tookpick inserted in the center of one comes out clean.
Allow the muffins to cool slightly in the pan, before removing them.
At this point you can eat them. Gobble them up. Devour them. Hand them out as gifts to ready and willing individuals.
Or you can remove them from the pans, place them on a cooling rack and allow them to cool down completely before saving them in the fridge for another day. But who has that kind of will power?
If you do opt out for the save-for-later approach. Wrap them up and place them in the fridge. When ready to eat, heat them in the oven for a few minutes to warm them up.
I’ll opt out for the eat-them-all-at-this-very-second approach.
I want three at one time please.
Don’t eat the paper, make sure you remember to unwrap it.
Sadly, I have to admit that I’ve bit into a cupcake liner on several – and by several I mean too many to count – occasions because I’ve been too eager to scarf down whatever it is I’m eating.
Make these for your next BBQ. Or for a potluck. Or for a dinner with the family. Or for a picnic at the park. Or for a party. Or for a midnight snack.
Make them with your friends because it’s fun to cook and bake with friends.
Make them for your doctor’s or dentist’s office, I know they’ll appreciate that. I know mine do.
Hey, make them for no reason at all. Other than you love making and eating corn muffins. Like I like making and eating corn muffins. We’ll have something in common now. You. Me. And Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Muffins.
Jalapeño Cheddar Corn Muffins
yield: 2 dozen
- 2 ears fresh corn or 1 cup frozen corn kernels
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 jalapeños, diced
- 3 large scallions, sliced
- 1 cup freshly grated sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 2 large eggs
If using fresh corn, husk the ears and carefully remove all of the silk. Place the corn on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and place under the broiler. Char the corn for about 10-15, turning occasionally, to evening broil. Remove from the oven and allow to cool down completely. Once completely cooled remove the kernels from the cob using a sharp knifeIf using frozen corn, thaw and pat dry with paper towels. Set aside.
Heat oven to 350°. Line two 12 cup standard muffin cups with cupcake liners.
In a large bowl, stir together the all-purpose flour, cornmeal, whole-wheat flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Add the corn kernels, chopped jalapeños, sliced scallions, and grated cheddar cheese. Toss to combine.
In another bowl or a large, glass measuring cup, whisk together the buttermilk, canola oil, and eggs. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir just until blended. If batter is too thick, add a splash more of buttermilk and stir. Do not overmix. Using a medium ice cream scoop to fill the lined muffin pans.
Bake the muffins until they are lightly browned and a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean, 10-15 minutes. Let cool in the pan on a wire rack for 15 minutes, then turn out onto the rack and let cool completely. Or you can eat them warm. At this point you can also freeze the muffins for up to 2 months. Enjoy!