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Recipes to pair with upgraded cornbread

Masa harina cornbread
Masa harina cornbread offers a blank canvas to pair with garlicky sautés and hearty chile stews.
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)
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Cornbread is to me what rice, potatoes or pasta is to other people: a staple carb of my diet. I grew up on it, so making a batch on a weeknight is no more difficult for me than making a pot of rice (and it doesn’t take that much longer if you’ve got the rhythm down).

For my latest recipe, though, I took my time-tested cornbread recipe for a spin with masa harina and some sugar, and it turned into something completely different but just as delicious as the classic version I eat most days. And now that I’ve got some wedges hanging around the house again, I’m planning all my meals around dunking.

I love a simple dish of sautéed shrimp, and the cornbread is a great vessel for soaking up the garlic-infused oil and lemon juice broth that mingles with the shrimp broth on the plate. For something with the same flavor profile but vegetarian, I love sautéed mushrooms with garlic that are brightened with cilantro; the sweetness of the cornbread plays off the earthy mushrooms wonderfully.

For more substantial offerings, try my braised chicken thighs cooked in a simple salsa verde made with leeks or scallions and chile — or if you have more time, try a batch of red chile posole made with pork, New Mexico chiles and hominy. The masa harina in the cornbread has an obvious affinity for the Mexican flavors in both dishes.

Wrap the cornbread slices in plastic wrap and store in the fridge. They’ll keep the rest of the week and reheat wonderfully in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. You’ll be left with no better a vessel for sopping up all those wonderful juices and broths from your dinner.

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Masa Harina Cornbread

This cornbread recipe is pretty classic, save for the use of masa harina instead of cornmeal, which gives the bread a more tender texture and corn-forward flavor. Regular granulated sugar is used to sweeten the cornbread, but feel free to use honey, maple syrup or even light brown sugar instead.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 45 minutes.

Masa harina cornbread
(Ben Mims / Los Angeles Times)

Gambas Al Ajillo

This recipe uses sherry to round out the flavors of this classic Spanish dish. Smart techniques also highlight the ingredients: Start with raw garlic slices in cold oil, then warm both together so the garlic cooks evenly all the way through and infuses the oil with a deep aroma.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

Gambas al Ajillo prepared by chef Aitor Zabala at Somni restaurant
(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

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King Oyster and Wood Ear Mushrooms With Cilantro Persillade

The counterplay between the meaty king oyster mushrooms and the thin, crunchy wood ear mushrooms makes this an exciting dish. A simple persillade, traditionally a mix of minced parsley and garlic, is made here with cilantro and livens up the hearty mushrooms.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 15 minutes.

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Chef David Tanis' king oyster mushroom and woodear mushroom salad
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Chicken Thighs Braised in Spring Onion Salsa Verde

The spring onions here are available not just at farmers markets but also in regular grocery stores from late February through May. If you can’t find them, or want to make the dish when they’re not in season, everyday scallions make a great substitute; just use the recommended weight since scallions will be much smaller than the onions.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour.

Red Chile Posole

New Mexico chiles blend into a flavorful red chile sauce that bolsters this comforting stew. Sweet, tender hominy add contrast to the hearty pork and broth teeming with warmth and spice.
Get the recipe.
Cook time: 1 hour 45 minutes.

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