My wife and I stumbled on a product by Desert Gardens when we were visiting relatives in Arizona. For years, it was my favorite cornbread – moist, slightly-sweet with a fair amount of zip. We would buy six to ten packages (at $6.50 each) and squirrel them away for future use. Unfortunately our local distributor here in Wisconsin stopped carrying it.
Out of frustration….OK, desperation, I reverse-engineered the recipe and tweaked it until I thought it was spot-on to the original product. Chilis vary in heat, so you’ll want to ensure they are palatable for your taste before combining them in this recipe. Enjoy!
1/2 cup melted butter
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup buttermilk
1 flame-roasted poblano or New Mexican green chili, finely diced (about 1 cup)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
Preheat your oven to 375-degrees F. Grease a ten-inch cast-iron skillet with vegetable oil or Crisco shortening. Preheat the skillet in the oven while you prepare the batter and the chili pepper.
Wash the poblano or NM green chili pepper and char the tough outer skin until blistered, using a portable propane torch. You’ll need to be careful, ensuring that you have a flameproof bowl or secondary skillet so you don’t burn your kitchen countertop. When completely charred, place the chili pepper in a sealed brown paper lunch bag for about ten minutes.
While the chili pepper is cooling, melt the butter in a large microwave-safe mixing bowl. In the same bowl, add the sugar and stir. Add the eggs and quickly beat until blended. Combine the buttermilk with the baking soda and stir into the mixture. Next, add the cornmeal, flour and salt and fold gently until incorporated, (it’s OK to have a few lumps). Wash the skin off of the chili pepper in cold water. Remove the seeds and stem. Dice the chili and gently fold in.
Remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour the batter into the skillet. BE CAREFUL – it may splatter. I’ll argue the step of pre-heating your cornbread skillet with anyone – it is essential to creating an authentic, crispy crust.
Level the batter and bake for about 30-35 minutes, or until lightly browned. A toothpick should pull out clean when inserted into the center of the cornbread. Remove and serve immediately.
Serve with butter.