I really love when something hot, savory and sweet oh-so-gently melts away on my tongue after I take a little bite of it. There’s a certain warmth to a rich and buttery dish, a particular comforting coziness that just seems to wrap itself around my entire being and hug me tight. And that’s a pretty magical thing, I think. Isn’t food a good friend sometimes? The combination of savory and mildly sweet is a combination that can be just the right amount of “complex” without being overwhelming; and it’s a perfect side dish for a special occasion such as a Thanksgiving meal where earthy ingredients like corn, sharp cheddar and chives come together to form a pillowy, soft bite in the way of a simple casserole. And what a scrumptious little scoop of love this puffy casserole is, right in the midst of the mashed potatoes, the turkey, the Grand Marnier-Spiked Cranberry & Pear Compote and the Savory French Green Been Casserole. Mmm, mmm…! I’ll take a helping or two of that, please!
During a Thanksgiving Day meal last year, my husband and I tasted a hot, slightly creamy, light and airy corn casserole that we both fell in love with. It was just the right amount of sweet from the corn, yet had a slight saltiness that complimented it, too. And while I don’t remember what was in that casserole exactly, I do remember the consistency and the buttery flavor of the “souffle-like” dish. It was delicious, and the perfect accompaniment to the T-Day meal as a whole. And so I was inspired to create something similar for our table this year, something with that slightly-creamy consistency and in the spirit of that divinely comforting dish, and this Sweet Autumn Cornbread & Vermont Cheddar Casserole is what I put together. Moist, homemade cornbread, sharp Vermont white cheddar, fresh seasonal corn cut straight from the cob, plus the herby and green pop of fresh chives added to the mix. Spoonable, warm and inviting, this casserole will be one of my favorite perfectly puffy bites to take this Thanksgiving holiday, no question.
Who doesn’t love the warm companionship of a flavorful and sweetly-savory bite of homemade food? Thanksgiving is the perfect occasion for gratitude for the bounty of treats and dishes that we lovingly prepare in our homes from scratch, for the specific purpose of sharing our love and our hearts with others. Sure, Sweet Autumn Cornbread & Vermont Cheddar Casserole is just one special little side dish among many that will surely be enjoyed this year for that special Thanksgiving meal, but it’ll be one that will dissipate ever-so slowly and delicately on the tongue in one perfectly tempting bite after another.
Taste what’s good and pass it on.
Sweet Autumn Cornbread & Vermont Cheddar Casserole with Fresh Chives
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(Serves about 8)
• 2 pounds cornbread, cut into cubes (simple recipe below, or you can use store-bought)
• 2 cups fresh-cut corn kernels (about 4 ears)
• 4 tablespoons melted butter
• ½ cup minced chives
• ½ teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon black pepper
• ½ teaspoon onion powder
• ¼ teaspoon Italian seasoning
• 8 ounces Vermont white cheddar, grated
• 1 cup chicken stock
• 1 ½ cups half & half
• 2 tablespoons honey
• 4 eggs
-Preheat the oven to 350°, and lightly mist a large casserole/baking dish with cooking spray.
-Into a large bowl, add the cubed cornbread and the fresh corn kernels; next, pour in the melted butter, and also add in the chives, salt, black pepper, onion powder, Italian seasoning and grated cheddar cheese; toss all ingredients to combine them well.
-In another bowl, whisk together the chicken stock, the half & half, the honey and the eggs, and pour this “custard” into the cornbread mixture, and using your hands, combine all of these ingredients together until well incorporated (your cornbread will break up and the mixture will have a “pudding”-like consistency).
-Pour the mixture into your prepared baking/casserole dish, and bake covered with foil for 45 minutes, then uncover, and bake for about 30 minutes longer, or until set and puffy, and golden brown on top; allow the casserole to rest for about 10 minutes before serving.
Simple Cornbread ingredients:
• 1 ¼ cup yellow cornmeal
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 2 tablespoons sugar
• 2 teaspoons baking powder
• ½ teaspoon baking soda
• ½ teaspoon salt
• 1 ½ cups buttermilk
• 2 eggs, whisked
• 8 tablespoons butter (½ cup), melted
• ¼ cup honey
-Preheat the oven to 400°, and butter a medium-large baking dish (about 2 qt.)
-Into a large bowl add the cornmeal, the flour, the sugar, the baking powder and baking soda, and the salt; whisk to combine these dry ingredients well.
-Next, add to the dry ingredients the buttermilk and the eggs, and whisk those in; add in the melted butter and the honey, and whisk those in until well blended.
-Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish, and bake for about 24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean; allow to completely cool for the above recipe.