While Thanksgiving seems like a lot to plan and execute, perhaps it’s the day we should, instead, plan on sharing the work and the fun. Someone brings only wine, but offers to help clean up or play a board game with the kids after dinner. Another spends all week baking grandma’s favorite pies and does nothing that afternoon but pour New Mexican sparkling wine–namely, Gruet. (No French Champagne on Thanksgiving, please!) There’s also the real possibility of skipping the pig-out buffet and planning a curated — and maybe more healthful — meal. Making it somewhat more dinner party-ish, we could think in terms of one vegetable instead of 4, two pies rather than 10 desserts, a single perfect potato dish, and maybe someone’s favorite aunt’s cranberries. Ok, you have to have stuffing. Would it still be Thanksgiving without twenty casseroles? You bet your little tom turkey it would. And could we talk a little less in the way of dishes and leftovers here? But of course!
If there are children around, why not involve them in your less complicated Thanksgiving? Skip the store bakery rolls and/or the time it takes to make yeast bread and consider a fast pan of fresh muffins. Even a toddler on a stool can help stir; kids any older at all can measure and tip in ingredients, though using the oven does require grown-up help. Young chefs really do love to bake and feel terribly accomplished afterward because, just like adults, they are fond of a finished product to which they can point–and, in this case, put in their mouth. So many kids (and adults) follow a gluten-free diet today–including my granddaughter Piper– I thought I’d include an easy GF muffin recipe for them to make and bring to dinner. Not Gluten-Free? No matter; cornmeal muffins are basically GF anyway (with the elimination or replacement of wheat flour) and no on even thinks about it. My sturdy little gems use all gluten-free cornmeal for the grain and, with the addition of more than a cup of grated sharp Cheddar cheese, don’t even need butter. Honey, however, might be in order!
Every year around this time, I dig out my stash of old holiday magazines, particularly the legendary GOURMET favorites, and get just a little nostalgic dreaming of meals gone by–or even meals not yet cooked. Many GOURMET recipes are on epicurious.com, of course, and, if you’re really a fan, order the lovely GOURMET COOKBOOK or GOURMET TODAY, which will keep you both reading and cooking for a good long while.
While I often make cornbread muffins right off the cornmeal container (with my own little changes, of course), it does my heart and tummy good to use a tried-and-true GOURMET recipe that also has had a few tweaks over time. Here it is as I’ve left it for now–simple, clean, crispy-tender (as are all good Thanksgiving sides), and easy as pie for a youngster or the youngster in you to bake and take for the holiday. If you’re not a regular Gluten-Free baker, this one is for you as it doesn’t requires 6 different specialty flours or ingredients; Gluten-Free cornmeal is it. You can make these a day ahead, cool, and store at room temperature in a sealable gallon bag (or freeze for up to two weeks), and then pop them into the hot oven to warm and crisp up for a few minutes after everything else is out and about on the stove and counter and the wine is being poured. Try this:
cheddar-corn muffins (gluten-free)
- 12-cup Muffin Tin
- Softened butter for greasing muffin tin
- 2 cups gluten-free cornmeal
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ¼ cups buttermilk (can sub milk plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice)
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 ¾ cups grated extra sharp Cheddar–5 ounces, divided
- Honey, for serving — optional
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and position rack at center. Grease muffin tins with softened butter using a pastry brush or a paper towel. Set up a cooling rack on the counter.
- Stir together cornmeal, salt, pepper, baking powder, and baking soda in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup, beat the eggs briefly and whisk in milk and canola oil. Stir the egg mixture into the large bowl with the cornmeal mixture until just combined. Add only 1 ½ cups of the grated Cheddar cheese and mix briefly.
- Using a greased large ice cream scoop, divide the batter among the muffin cups and sprinkle each with a bit of the remaining ¼ cup of cheese.
- Place muffin pan in the oven and bake until muffins are golden brown and/or a toothpick inserted at the center of a muffin comes out clean –15-20 minutes. Holding the tin firmly with your two gloved hands (or use oven pads/towel), bang it a couple of times on the counter, to make sure the muffins are free in the cups. (Use a small sharp knife to go around muffins if they stick.) Turn the pan over and release the muffins onto a cooling rack. Turn each muffin upright. Serve warm or at room temperature with honey, if desired.
PAPER LINERS OR NOT? I’m in the decidedly NOT camp. Muffins deserve to keep their textural integrity intact and that happens only if you grease the muffin cups and the batter comes in contact with hot buttery metal to form the outside crispy crust that, once bitten into, gives way to the tender inside crumb. Paper liners, while easy, trap steam and therefore make for a softer and less colorful exterior layer. Be green, save money, and make tastier bread with no liners.
IF YOU LIKED THIS, you might like “A Cranberry Thanksgiving Day – Or How to Get Kids Involved in Thanksgiving.”
A tasty side or two coming up next week just in time to put the ingredients on your third-to-last Thanksgiving shopping trip; stay tuned.
Practice being grateful in the upcoming days. I promise I’m grateful for you,