Side Fling


Habanero Bacon Cream Cheese Corn Muffins

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A lot of my posts recently have involved bacon. This one does too. With a nod to Harley Morenstein, bacon has been an omnipresent food trend for the last few years and I don’t see any end to the savory pork strip onslaught in the near future. While baconphilia has produced an incredible spectrum of twists on classic dishes – donuts, brussel sprouts, even sushi – with mostly positive reception, there is another seasonal trend this fall that is extremely polarizing. I am, of course, talking about pumpkin spice. Beginning with the Pumpkin Spice Latte from Starbucks in 2003, the obsession with this delicious flavor that evokes visions of multicolored trees and scarves has taken off astronomically. Even Harry Potter’s first drink at Hogwarts was pumpkin juice. While you will never catch me in public with a pumpkin flavored drink, Starbucks did introduce me to one of my favorite treats I often make starting around October: the Pumpkin Cream Cheese Muffin. This gem and/or calorie bomb combines the wonderful flavors of allspice to the richness of cream cheese. I’ve seen my friends eat five of these muffins at a time. But what if you’re like me and lack a major sweet tooth? Well, if I may be so bold as to offer a solution, I present to you Habanero Bacon Cornbread muffins.

Cornbread muffins have been around forever, and you can pretty much find them anywhere that has a meat and three or just plain down home Southern cooking. The twist here then is the addition of cream cheese to the middle of each bite. This is Texas though, so we need something better than just plain Kraft Philadelphia. This is where my favorite pepper comes in, the habanero. The key to making good habanero cream cheese is letting the whole mixture sit overnight. The longer it sits, and this is true for most spicy things, the more flavor and capsaicin is absorbed into the mixture. This is why the recipe below requires at least a day of pre-prep before the actual muffins are made. Besides the habaneros, I threw in some scallions from my garden, along with (surprise, surprise) bacon, and the extra jalapeño I had left over from making the muffins.  Honestly, you could stop after making the cream cheese and just make next level bagel sandwiches but people have been schmearing interesting spreads on bagels for years.

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By the time you get done with the whole cooking process you have a cornbread muffin that could hold its own anywhere, but with addition of the cream cheese center you have upped the expectations for how cornbread should taste for everyone that tries one. The only downside to these muffins is that they are definitely much better warm then they are cold; then again, this is nothing 20 seconds in a microwave cannot fix.

 

You’ll Need

Habanero Cream Cheese

  • 24 oz of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup diced habanero peppers
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions
  • 1/4 cup chopped jalapeño (optional)
  • 3/4 cup chopped, cooked bacon

Corn Bread

  • 1 1/2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons fine salt
  • 2/3 cup corn kernels, thawed if frozen
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped pickled jalapeños
  • 1 1/2 cups whole milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter (3/4 stick), melted, plus more for coating the pan

Method

  1. Mix all ingredients into the cream cheese well in a bowl. Refrigerate over night.
  2. Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat the wells of a 12-well muffin pan with butter and set it aside for now.
  3. Place the cornmeal, 1/2 cup of the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl and whisk to combine
  4. Place the corn and jalapeños in a bowl, add the remaining tablespoon of flour, and toss to combine
  5. Place the milk and eggs in a medium bowl and whisk until the eggs are broken up. Pour the milk mixture and melted butter into the cornmeal mixture and, using a rubber spatula, stir until just incorporated and no streaks of butter remain. Keep it grainy.  Add the corn and jalapeños and stir until just combined.
  6. Divide the batter among the prepared muffin wells about 1/3 of the way up.
  7. Spoon a dollop of the cream cheese mixture in the middle of each well on top of the batter. Fill the rest of well with the remaining batter.
  8. Bake until golden brown around 15 to 17 minutes. The toothpick method doesn’t work here because there is cream cheese in the middle Let the muffins cool in the pan for around 5 minutes. Serve warm.

 

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Chocolate Chip Blueberry Muffin Loaf

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Yeah, I don’t even know. This started as a brainstorming session due to my inability to sleep, in turn, due to my inability to apply sunscreen to my back, which is now very, very red. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’d know I have an unhealthy obsession with pie. So, at approximately 2:45 am, I came up with the gem of an idea to take muffin mix, put it in a pie tin, and let it rise like some huge muffin. In the middle I could put blueberries or something. As I said, I don’t even know.

After going to my local Central Market to pick up ingredients for my lofty endeavor, I decided to tell my mother about my genius idea. About a minute into the conversation, I realized how idiotic I sounded, and that making a giant muffin pie was a moronic idea. The baking time it would take to get the muffin batter dry on the inside would render the top and bottom of the pie completely burnt. I already had the ingredients though, so what to do?

I’d be lying if I said I had a plan. I basically just whipped up some chocolate chip muffin batter. And in retrospect, I probably could/should have just poured them into baking cups and called it a day. But this is What A Twist. Dogs, dolphins, pigs and the rest of the intelligent animal community can easily bake chocolate chip muffins (read Redwall or The Wind in the Willows if you don’t believe me). Consequently, I took the aforementioned, and already purchased, blueberries and went rogue.

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Taking two loaf pans I layered about 1/3 of the batter into one. Then I took about 2 pints of blueberries and rolled them in 3 tablespoons of the finest, uncut cornstarch money can buy. I’m not really sure why I did this, put you’re supposed to do it when you make blueberry pies so why not? Then I layered the blueberries on top of the batter I had poured. Doing the same thing for the other loaf pan, I quickly realized there’s no way in hell I’m getting two loaves out of this. So, throwing caution to the wind (by caution I mean the batter and blueberries in one pan, and by wind I mean the other pan) I turned my creation into a double layered chocolate chip blueberry muffin cake loaf thing. Then I baked it f0r 40 minutes. And, to be real with you, it turned out to be a delectable treat, perfect, in the words of my mother, with tea or coffee. And with that, I give you the recipe.

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You’ll Need

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/4 – 1/2 white sugar (depending on how sweet you want this)
  • 3 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup of milk (I used 1% because it’s swimsuit season and I’m that vain, but whole would probably be better)
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil (or melted butter if that floats your boat)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 2 quarts of blueberries, rinsed, patted dry
  • 3 tbsp corn starch

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 400º F
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips
  3. In another bowl, whisk together milk, oil and egg.
  4. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until you get a batter, obviously it will be lumpy because of the chocolate chips
  5. Add blueberries in a bowl and toss in cornstarch.
  6. Butter and Flour a 9×5 loaf pan.
  7. Add one third of the batter to the bottom of the pan, then add a layer of blueberries, trying not to get excess corn starch in the pan
  8. Cover the blueberry layer with another third of the batter and then add another layer of blueberries
  9. Pour the rest of the batter over the second blueberry layer
  10. Bake for ~40 minutes, using a toothpick to gauge when the loaf is done.

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Sea Salt Chocolate Pretzel Pie

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I love pie like Brick Tamland loves lamp. The love affair began when I crossed the threshold of Emporium Pies, a little slice of heaven nestled in the Bishop Arts District of Dallas. With items like Red Velvet Cream Cheese Chess Pie and Sweet Potato Crust Pumpkin Pie, it’s hard to not instantly fall in love with the Emporium. The great coffee and almost overwhelmingly friendly service are just bonuses that go along with these creatively contrived confections.

The only negative thing I can say about the Emporium is that the pies are a tad pricey to be buying on the regular. $30 for a normal pie and $40 for their deep dish apple “Lord of the Pies” does not a full wallet make. Therefore, there comes a time in every man’s life where he must buckle down and take the pie making process into his own hands. And so that is what I did.

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Since I respect and value all pies equally, regardless of gender, race, creed, or flavor, I found myself at a loss for direction when I made the (highly impulsive) decision to bake my own pie. I decided to crowd source ideas, and from my girlfriend I got toffee pretzel crust with a chocolate sea salt filling. While I didn’t exactly follow the toffee part of the suggestion — to be honest I always thought toffee was what old people eat while watching Maury at 3pm before bedtime — I took the rest of the suggestion and went ahead with this pie.

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One motto I’ve always stood by for pies (and tarts, and quiches, and pizza) is that a pie is only as good as its crust. And by god this was a good crust. The toughest part of making this recipe was crushing up the pretzels to use in the crust. It’s a similar method to graham cracker crust except saltier. To crush up the pretzels I put a half pound into a plastic bag and beat it senseless with my hands. Then I threw the bag on the ground and stomped on it for a while, doing a jig-like dance atop the pretzels. Next, I took the bag of semi-crushed pretzels and ran it over about 40 times with my car. Then I took the bag and emptied it into my Vitamix. Then finally, I poured the crumbs into a mortar and crushed it vigorously for half an hour with a pestle. At this point I had a pretty fine consistency of pretzel crumbs and was good to go. If I had to do it all over, I would probably just start and end with running over the pretzels with my car; it seemed to prove most effective. Using brown sugar and butter as my only other two ingredients for the crust basically added the toffee flavor in anyways.

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After baking the crust, I made a simple chocolate ganache, and poured it into the cooled pie crust for it to harden in the refrigerator. I also sprinkled a smattering of sea salt on top of the pie, as if the pretzel crust weren’t salty enough. Once the pie hardens, the obvious next step is to eat it. And god damn was it good, if I do say so myself.

DSC09787You’ll Need

  • 2.5 cups (half lb.) of crushed pretzels, crushed in one of the myriad aforementioned ways
  • 3/4 cup melted butter
  • 3 tablespoons of packed brown sugar
  • 10 oz. bittersweet chocolate broken into pieces (I used 62% cocoa but that can be adjusted)
  • 1 1/4 cups of cream
  • sea salt to taste

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF
  2. Mix crushed pretzels, melted butter and brown sugar into bowl. Combine.
  3. Pack mixture into 9″ pie dish, making sure there are no holes in the crust.
  4. Bake crust for 10 minutes, then remove to cool for at least 20 minutes.
  5. Bring 1 1/4 cups of cream to a simmer in a sauce pan.
  6. With chocolate in a glass bowl, pour cream over and mix until all chocolate is melted.
  7. Pour into the pie crust and smooth out.
  8. Scatter the sea salt
  9. Refrigerate to let set for 3 hours

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Sandwich Pie

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The reason I categorized this post under ‘sides’ comes from my reluctance to imply that a pie, one which also happens to be a huge sandwich, should be eaten by one person as a meal. Sandwich Pie, a recipe I’ve been making on occasion for the past few years, is meant to be shared.

sandwich pie ingredientsPies are nothing new. Neither are sandwiches. A Sandwich Pie is just a simple twist of two great things into the perfect hors d’oeuvre. I don’t like eating the same thing twice in a row so for this post I created a trio of pies: Reuben, Turkey and Pepperjack, and Kobe Beef and Cheddar. This first time I ever made sandwich pie, I actually combined all three varieties into one large pie; it was ambitious and quite frankly a little overwhelming.

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The first thing I did with the pie crusts was to spread a thin layer of cream cheese at the bottom. I wish I could articulate a clear reason for why I did this, but in all honesty I just did it because it seemed right. For the turkey, I used a herb & chives cream cheese, and for the other two I used plain. This is probably an unnecessary step to take, and you are more than welcome to cut this out when you try it yourself.

DSC09725The next step is pretty self explanatory, just stack meat and cheese until you’ve filled the crust. All you have to do after that is get the top crust on, a feat which takes coordination and precision I don’t posses. Then you bake ’em, slice ’em, and serve ’em hot. A postprandial trip to the gym wouldn’t be a bad idea either.

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You’ll Need

  • 6 frozen mini pie crusts. You could make your own but ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • 1/3 lb sliced turkey breast
  • 1/3 lb sliced roast beef. I used kobe beef but not everyone wants to pay $16/lb for deli meat.
  • 1/3 lb sliced corned beef. Pastrami would work too.
  • 4 slices of pepper jack cheese
  • 4 slices of baby swiss cheese
  • 4 slices cheddar
  • Cream cheese (both plain and herb & chives)
  • Sauerkraut to taste
  • 1000 island dressing

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. Take 3 of the pie crusts and spread a thin layer of cream cheese at the bottom. Regular for the reuben and the roast beef, and herb & chive for the turkey
  3. Begin to layer the meats and cheese on top of each other until you fill the containing crust. For the reuben, add sauerkraut between one of the layers and spread the 1000 island at the top layer.
  4. With the other 3 pie crusts, gently defrost, 8 seconds in the microwave, then flip onto the filled crusts and seal the edges.
  5. Cut a small hole in the center of each pie
  6. Bake for 50-60 mins until crusts are golden brown

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