October 27, 2013

[Corn]Bread of Heaven

…or heavenly cornbread, as non-Welsh readers will probably not get my tentative play on words (which hopefully will at least amuse my dear in-laws).

5 days ago. Harlem, NYC. Red Rooster restaurant.
I am eating cornbread for the first time (or if I had some before, it wasn't memorable) - served warm along with honey butter and tomato chutney on the side.
Impression: Wow! To me, the ultimate comfort food - understand soft, moist, light yet indulgent, delicately sweet and spicy, all at the same time. So simple and so delicious.

Today. Prenzlauer Berg, Berlin. Home.
I am baking cornbread for the first time, following Red Rooster's chef Marcus Samuelsson's recipe itself, and praying to successfully reproduce the melt-in-your-mouth experience...
Verdict: More rustic in texture but just as scrumptious, "even tastier than the original" according to my loving husband.

Here's the recipe, found in the chef's cooking book that luckily happened to be sitting on the shelf right next to our table. As I'd still like to reach the velvety consistency that appealed to me so much in Harlem, I'm thinking of trying some of the following next time: replacing part of the flour with starch, adding an egg, reducing the amount of fresh corn, discarding the bain-marie. But anyway, this is all fine-tuning and I've now got the major Thanksgiving staple ready for next month!

Ingredients for 2 loaves
4 ears fresh corn (shucked)
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup polenta
2 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon mild chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon nigella seeds
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 red chiles (seeds and ribs removed, chopped)
Butter to grease the pans

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the corn and simmer for 20 minutes. Strain. When the ears are cool enough to handle, cut the kernels from the cob. Place 1 cup of the corn kernels in a bowl and set aside. Place the remaining kernels in a blender and puree. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F, or 190°C.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, polenta, baking powder, salt, pepper, chili powder, ginger, cardamom, and nigella seeds. Stir in the brown sugar, chiles, corn kernels, corn puree, and 2 cups water. Mix to combine.

Butter 2 loaf pans and divide the batter evenly between them. Let rest for 20 minutes.

Place the pans in a shallow baking tray filled halfway with water and place in the oven. Bake for 1 hour. Cover with aluminum and bake for another 30 minutes.

Turn the loaves out onto a cooling tray and let cool. Serve with tomato chutney.

Red Rooster Harlem
310 Lenox Avenue, Harlem, NY 10027
(212) 792-9001

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