Cornbread has been the backbone of the Smoky Mountain foodways for a long time. It was the bread that extended the everyday meal, making simple provisions more filling and interesting. But cornbread can be transported to the modern-day kitchen, too, where it is the perfect foil for festive holiday toppings of black eyed pea relish, pimento cheese, and sweet-hot pepper jelly. These country-style canapés are vegetarian-friendly and an easy do-ahead appetizer for busy holiday entertaining. They are the perfect accompaniment to ham, smoked turkey, even bowls of chili.
Jalapeno Cornbread Squares with Festive Toppings
Makes about 12 servings (about 54 squares)
Prep time: 20 to 25 minutes
Bake time: 15 to 20 minutes
2 large eggs
1 cup cream-style corn (frozen or canned)
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup chopped green onions
1 cup shredded Cheddar or a Monterey Jack and Cheddar blend
Optional: 1 teaspoon diced jalapeno pepper and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup prepared pimento cheese
1/4 cup pepper jelly, if desired
Thinly sliced ham and fresh figs
1. Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Mist a 13- by 9-inch metal baking pan with vegetable oil spray, and set the pan aside.
2. Place the cornbread mix, eggs, cream-style corn, buttermilk, and oil in a large mixing bowl and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula to just combine, 1 minute. Do not over-mix. Fold in the green onions and cheese, and the jalapeno pepper and black pepper if you like it spicier. Turn the batter into the prepared pan.
3. Place the pan in the oven, and bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back in the center when lightly pressed, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven, and let the cornbread cool completely in the pan, 1 hour.
4. When ready to assemble, cut the cornbread into about 54 squares. Remove the squares to a large tray or sheet pan. Top some of the squares with a teaspoon of black eyed pea relish and the others with a teaspoon of pimento cheese. Top the pimento cheese-covered squares with a dab of pepper jelly, if desired, or candied pepper slices. Top the rest with thinly sliced ham or prosciutto rolled up into a little rose alongside a thin slice of fig. Arrange on a platter and serve at room temperature.