Turkey Day style in the dog days of August

Cook-Out Companion Corn Muffins  |  Melissa Elsmo~for Sun-Times Media
Cook-Out Sandwiches  |  Melissa Elsmo~for Sun-Times Media
Taking menu inspiration from an autumnal Thanksgiving feast seems odd in August, but last week I just couldn’t help myself.

Few foods bridge seasons as well as comforting cornbread and dense and nourishing corn muffins are as welcome at a backyard summer barbecues as they are at the winter holiday table.

I recently whipped up a batch of my all-season jalapeno-cheddar corn muffins to serve alongside a few racks of heavenly baby back ribs and some creamy coleslaw. Everything about the meal, from the sliced garden tomatoes to the smoky barbeque sauce, smacked of summer, and the slightly spicy corn muffins brought a perfect sense of whimsy to the plate.

The sunny colored muffins are a breeze to make, but taking the time to complete an important first step ensures the bread is well on its way to perfection before the batter even makes it into the muffin tins. Heating the greased tins in a hot oven before filling them is the key to creating a delectable golden brown crust on the exterior of each muffin.

Enjoying the muffins straight from the oven with a knob of salted butter is divine, but after serving the batch to my family for dinner, I found myself starring at five leftover muffins, a half a rack of ribs and a scant cup of coleslaw in my refrigerator the following day. I didn’t want to waste the remnants of such delicious fare, but knew I’d need to make my dinner scraps appear a little more substantial if I was going to get a second meal out of them.

If serving up corn muffins is equally appropriate in summer as it is in the autumn, I figured I could apply the same philosophy to my cook-out leftovers that so many folks practice with their Thanksgiving leftovers.
My sturdy jalapeno cheddar muffins make the ideal base for cook-out inspired sandwiches; they may be small, but the resulting sandwiches are deceptively hearty. So cook up a batch of corn muffins and layer on grilled meats, coleslaw, tomatoes and a little extra BBQ sauce for good measure. Making the most out of your summertime leftovers has never been more delicious.
Cook-Out Companion Corn Muffins
These muffins are a fantastic complement to an array of BBQ foods and are best enjoyed right out of the oven. (Makes 1 dozen.)
1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 eggs
1 8-ounce can creamed corn
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
Salted butter for serving
Stir together the cornmeal, baking powder, sugar and salt. Mix in the milk, eggs, corn and butter. Add the cheese and chilies and stir just until combined; take care not to over mix.
Heat 12 greased muffin tins in a 425 degree oven for 5 minutes; they will be a little smokey. Remove the muffin tin from the oven and fill each tin 3/4 full of batter; it will sizzle a little on contact.
Bake at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Muffins will be golden brown on the tops and slightly moist in the center. Serve the muffins warm with butter.
Cook-Out Sandwiches
Stacking all of your leftover cook-out fare on a sturdy corn muffin takes leftovers to a new level.
Leftover Cook-out Companion Corn Muffins
Leftover BBQ pork shoulder, ribs, chicken or beef brisket
Leftover coleslaw
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced scallions
Slice the corn muffin half vertically and spread with a bit of the coleslaw. Top with the sliced tomatoes, meat and scallions. Garnish with additional barbecue sauce if desired. Skewer filled sandwiches with a pick and serve.
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