Introduction: Cornbread Mexicano

This recipe is a throwback to a dish that my mom used to make while I was growing up which was always a crowd pleaser. Since then I have put my own spin on it and hopefully you can take away some inspiration for your own culinary interpretation. This rendition of Cornbread Mexicano is ground beef with onions and peppers covered with cheese and a layer of homemade cornbread. So, enough talk. Let's fire it up.

Step 1: Gather and Prep

For this recipe you will need the following ingredients:

~1lb ground beef (use 85% lean so that the beef stays flavorful)
1/2 Onion
1/2 Bell Pepper
2 Jalapenos
Lemon or Lime
All Purpose Flour
Baking Soda
Fennel Seed
Black Pepper
Olive Oil
Cheese (I usually just use the shredded Mexican blend to save a little time and clean up)

The first step is to get your oven pre-heating to 375oF. Now you will want to wash and prep the vegetables. Mince the jalapenos, garlic, and cilantro. Dice the onion and bell pepper.

Step 2: Make the Cornbread Batter

Next you will want to prepare you cornmeal batter. Add 1 1/2 cups of cornmeal, 1 cup of flour, 1 large egg, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp salt, 1/4 cup olive oil, 1 1/2 cups milk, and 1/3 cup sugar to a large bowl and whisk together. Fold half of you minced cilantro, garlic, and jalapenos into the batter. The consistency should be something like pancake batter so add a little extra milk or flour to adjust your batter is necessary. Once this is combined set the batter aside for the moment.

Step 3: Brown Your Ground Beef and Sweat Your Veggies

Bring your cast iron skillet to medium heat. Does it have to be cast iron? Only if you want it to be awesome. I've got 99 problems but a high specific heat, even cooking, and a non-stick surface aren't among them. Once it is up to heat add your ground beef and allow it to cook until it is about half browned.

Next turn your heat down and add in your bell peppers, onions, and remaining garlic, cilantro, and jalapenos. At this point the residual heat in the cast iron will continue to cook the beef and sweat the vegetables. Add salt, black pepper, and fennel to the mixture to taste. Allow this to cook until the beef is fully browned and the onions and peppers have just become translucent. Take the skillet off of the heat.

Step 4: Layer and Put in the Oven

Now that your meat layer is ready, squeeze half of a lemon or lime over it. This will add some acidity and brightness to the final dish. Layer the meat with shredded cheese and then pour on the cornmeal batter. Place the now full skillet into the preheated oven and cook it for about 30 minutes at 375oC or until the top is golden brown.

Step 5: Remove From the Oven and Let Cool

After about 30 minutes of cooking, test the cornbread layer for doneness using a toothpick or knife. If no batter is on the toothpick after you poke the center of the dish then the cooking is complete. Remove the skillet from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes on the stove top.

Step 6: Serve and Enjoy!

Once the cornbread mexicano has had a chance to cool, use a sharp knife to cut out pieces and serve. I like to garnish with fresh cilantro, shredded cheese, or fresh pico de gallo. Buen provecho!

Epilog Challenge V

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