Friday, October 29, 2010

Spiced Beef Cornbread

 Halloween is by far my favorite holiday.  I think now, as an adult, it is because it is the kick off to the holiday season. As a child it was because my neighborhood knew how to give Halloween a proper celebration.  And it wasn't really the kids as much as it was the parents who led in the haunting of our East Texas neighborhood.  Freddie Kruger would hobble down the streets, Jason would quickly stumble down the path and the guy from Texas Chainsaw Massacre would chase you down the streets ripping his unchained chainsaw (I had never ran so fast!)

My dad, dressed in all black, red faced, donning a black wig and horns was a first class Lucifer.  He would jump out of the tree and startle trick or treaters, that is until one unfortunate Halloween when he threw his back out.

Even though our neighborhood Lucifer had been benched, my dad took on a new (and more brilliant) Halloween persona the next year.  "The Pumpkin Man" was dressed in flannel, overalls, work gloves and boots and had a gigantic pumpkin for a head.  He sat by our front door like a lump while my mom fussed with his clothes (mainly to make it look like she was stuffing him with hay-it was such a great act.)  

Parents would walk up to the door with their little ghosts or goblins and "Pumpkin Man" would move ever so slightly.  "Pumpkin Man" never really made any fast or sudden moves, he'd just creepily turn toward the crowd or brush up against a parent's arm.  That Halloween persona scared many people, kids and adults alike and a number of candy bags were left behind on our front porch.

One year after the debut of "Pumpkin Man," I was sitting in my 8th grade class listening to my fellow students talk of their Halloween plans.  Of course many planned to visit my neighborhood, even though they lived across town.  One boy blurted out, "I know one thing, that Pumpkin Man better not get me!"  Without looking at the boy I sat their smiling, amazed that he was remembered and known. All I could think was, yep, that's my dad!
Spiced Beef Cornbread would be a perfect meal for Halloween night.  Not because it is spooky, but because it is easy, filling and good.  Whip this up in no time and send your trick or treaters out the door.  It has a nice warmth from the cinnamon (yes, cinnamon) and I love the cheesy cornbread topping.  Great dish for a fast, fall meal.

Spiced Beef Cornbread Cobbler
4 servings
adapted from Gourmet December 2006

1 medium onion, chopped
4 T. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, medium diced
1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 t. sugar
¼ t. ground cinnamon
½ t. cayenne
¼ t. ground allspice
¼ t. pepper
¾ t. ground ginger
1 ¼ t. salt, divided
14-15 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
2/3 c. yellow cornmeal
1/3 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/3 c. whole milk
1 large egg
2 oz. coarsely grated sharp cheddar (1/2 c. plus 2 T.)

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Lightly oil a 9-½ inch pie/tart/casserole plate.
2. Cook onion in 2 tablespoons oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent, 3-4 minutes. Add carrots and cook until soft. Add garlic, cook for 1 minute.
3. Add beef and cook, breaking up large chunks, until no longer pink. Add sugar, spices, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring until incorporated. Add tomatoes and briskly simmer, stirring occasionally, until liquid is reduced to about ¼ cup, 8-10 minutes.
4. While beef simmers, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together milk, egg, and remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a small bowl, then stir into cornmeal mixture until just combined. Fold in ½ cup cheese.
5. Spoon cooked spiced beef into pie plate with a slotted spoon. Spoon 4 mounds of cornbread batter over beef, then sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons cheese over batter. Bake until a wooden toothpick inserted into center of cornbread comes out clean, 15-25 minutes. Serve warm.

1 comment:

Mama Pea said...

Love your memories. That is great. You must have gotten your personality from your dad! :-) This sounds good. I would love for Lloyd to make it. E-mailing him the URL now.