Thursday, September 9, 2010

Charles Kirby's Famous Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread

My dear friend Charles Kirby, one of the finest character artists of the National Ballet of Canada, is equally famous in my mind for his fabulous Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread. Born in the southern US, his flair for southern cookin' comes honestly. So does his flair for entertaining. Charles believes in having a signature cocktail for any brunch, lunch, dinner or simple get-together. One memorable dinner party he held while he was living in Toronto, featured his fried chicken and cornbread, preceded by his signature cocktail for the evening — A Pink Elephant. A heady concoction of frozen pink lemonade and rum!

Off stage, Charles's timing was never his strong suit, so any meal that he created was always served an hour or so later than intended, which made cocktail "hour" a nebulous concept. It could go on for quite a while, and often did. Much later that evening, dinner was finally served. It was worth the wait. I got the cornbread recipe from Charles the next day, and have been making it ever since. It's sweet, moist on the inside, a little crispy on the outside, and the jalapenos pack a little punch. So does the Pink Elephant!

Charles' Jalapeno Cheese Cornbread

1 cup cornmeal
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup creamed corn
2 large eggs, beaten
2/3 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sharp cheddar, grated
1/2 cup canned jalapeno peppers, chopped

Preheat oven to 350°. Put shortening in a skillet and place in oven until melted. (Alternatively you could use a muffin pan). Stir dry ingredients in a bowl. Stir wet ingredients in another bowl, except jalapenos. Combine wet and dry ingredients together, adding the jalapenos at the end. Pour the mixture into the heated skillet (or muffin pan) and bake 30-40 minutes, until puffed and golden.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish. More if you make them muffin-style.

Charles Kirby's Pink Elephant Cocktail

1 can frozen pink lemonade
1 can white rum
ice cubes

Empty the can of frozen lemonade into a blender. Top up the empty can with white rum and pour it into the blender. Then top up the blender with ice cubes and purée. Serve in decorative glasses, and garnish with a sprig of mint if you wish. Or if you remember!

Serves 4-6