What do you do when you’ve made more cornbread than you can eat? Okay, that’s not quite the situation. I can eat a lot of cornbread, thanks to my heritage. But I did have some that was getting a bit stale, and I needed to reaffirm its importance. Hence, this Sofrito Cornbread Strata.
Seriously full of flavor, it’s like creamy polenta encased in crunchy crusty cornbread. It is absolutely center-of-the-plate material, so build the rest of the meal around it.
For my meal, I added some black beans, charred broccoli, and a roasted red pepper cream sauce. Pico de gallo or another Mexican-style salsa would also be great companions.
Here’s the recipe. Some helpful notes follow. Enjoy!
Sofrito Cornbread Strata
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 cup sofrito (see recipe below)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups cornbread, broken into crouton-sized bits
3 cups sweet potato, roasted, peeled, and diced
2 Poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, and diced
1 1/3 cups unsalted vegetable stock or water
1. Heat oven to 350°.
2. Warm the olive oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add the mushrooms. Sauté until they release their liquid.
3. Add sofrito and salt. Mix well. Remove from heat.
4. Place the cornbread into a large mixing bowl. Add the mushroom and sofrito mixture.
5. Add the sweet potato and the poblano. Pour in 1/2 of the stock. Mix well.
6. Check the mixture for saturation. It should be evenly moist, with no excess stock in the bottom of the bowl. Add more stock if necessary and mix well.
7. Press the mixture into several lightly-oiled cake rings (mine are 3.5 dia x 2.25 deep), and place them on a lined baking sheet. Alternatively, you can put the entire mixture into a single lightly-oiled casserole dish. (If you’re using cake rings, you can place some of the vegetables around the edges so that they are visible when you remove the rings. This adds to the visual appeal of the dish.)
8. Bake uncovered at 350° for 30 minutes. If using rings, remove them at this point and broil for 5 more minutes.
Yield: 6 servings
By design, strata and their sweeter kin, bread puddings, make use of leftover bread that’s become stale. However, it’s perfectly acceptable to make a fresh batch of cornbread for this dish. There are a few other advance prep items in this recipe in addition to cornbread. They can all be made a day or two ahead of time, so that putting together the strata is a cinch. So, before beginning the recipe itself:
- Make cornbread (use your favorite recipe)
- Roast sweet potato
- Make sofrito (see recipe below)
- Roast Poblano chile (see process below)
- Make vegetable stock (follow link for great tips—this is so easy!)
You can easily pop the sweet potato in the oven while your cornbread is baking.
The sofrito recipe yields 2 cups, only 1 of which you’ll need for the strata. Use the other cup to flavor rice (add to ½ cup rice while cooking) or beans (add to 2 cups beans after they have been cooked.)
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
4 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ground annatto seed
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground chile (cayenne, chipotle, or ancho), optional
1/4 cup cilantro, or parsley, minced
1. Gently warm oil in sauté pan.
2. Add onion, bell pepper, and jalapeno. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes.
3. Add garlic, annatto, oregano, cumin, and optional chile powder. Sauté for an additional 5 or 10 minutes.
4. Add cilantro and turn off the heat.
Yield: 2 cups
Roasting Poblano Chiles: Turn your oven’s broiler on high. Place the chile in a pan under the broiler. Turn the chile every few minutes until it is entirely blackened and blistered. Place it in a plastic bag or a bowl with a cover. As the chile sweats, the peel will loosen. After about 20 minutes, you can easily remove all the peel. Resist the urge to rinse it, as doing so will wash away much of the flavorful oils. If you hit a stubborn spot where the peel won’t come off, don’t stress over it. It will be fine.
Roasting can also be done on the stovetop if you have a gas stove. (This is actually closer to ‘authentic.’) Simply place the chile directly on the burner and turn on the fire. Rotate frequently as above, until the chile is fully blackened and blistered. Follow the same steps for sweating and peeling.