Cornmeal is one of the most enduring contributions of Native American cuisines to the world's table.
Whether boiled, steamed or mixed into batters for griddling and baking, ground corn is central to the daily meals of people across Africa and the Americas.
Standard cornmeal has the germ removed for processing into corn oil. In a closed container, it will be good for years.
Stone ground cornmeal contains some germ and hull, giving it a slightly richer taste and more nutrients. The higher oil content also makes it a candidate for spoilage, so it's best refrigerated and used within four months.
Coarse adjustment: Cornmeal is typically sold in three grinds. Coarse is usually simmered, as in polenta; medium is used for hearty cornbread, and fine for pancakes, scones and so on.
Here, Alton Brown's simple cornbread recipe is enriched with shredded cheddar and chiles for a savory version that's substantial enough to anchor a dinner plate with a salad. Using a whole grain cornmeal, like Bob's Red Mill, will make it richer and crunchier.
Use pickled jalapenos, canned roasted green chiles or fresh chiles, as you prefer. Even bell peppers will work well.
Chile Cheddar Cornbread
1½ cups cornmeal, preferably
1¼ cups milk
1 cup flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
½ cup chopped pickled jalapeno
or other chiles
1 tablespoon butter, for skillet
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put cast iron skillet in, if using. (Iron skillets deliver extraordinary crustiness, but you can use any greased baking vessel of similar volume. Only preheat a skillet.)
In a large bowl, soak the cornmeal in the milk for 15 minutes.
Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. After the cornmeal has soaked, add vegetable oil and eggs to cornmeal mixture and beat to combine well.
Pour the cornmeal mixture over the flour mixture, add about two-thirds of the cheese, and stir to incorporate, taking care not to overmix.
Using an oven mitt, remove the skillet from the hot oven, grease with butter, and pour in the batter. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.
Bake about 25 minutes, or until cornbread is golden brown.
Remove the skillet from the oven, invert the cornbread onto a serving plate and then flip again onto a cutting board. Slice cornbread into 8 wedges, return to plate, and serve.
On the Web: Watch Andrew make zesty cornbread at buffalonews.com/taste