For Christmas one year when we were little, my sister and I each got a kids’ cookbook. I remember how cool we thought they were because they were for kids like us. I don’t know whether cooking seemed inaccessible, but we loved these cookbooks with recipes that we could make (mostly) by ourselves. I still remember many of the recipes, especially “flat tacos,” which on second thought were really just nachos. The recipes I remember were serious kid food, with various takes on burgers, tacos, and chicken nuggets, so maybe that’s really why we loved the food.
The dinner I remember the best though, was Tadpole in a Hole. This recipe is pretty close to what I remember. Basically we mixed up corn bread and poured it into the pan. Then you snuck in some mini sausage links and covered the whole thing with shredded cheese and baked it. Kate and I LOVED this, but our dad HATED it. I think he suffered through it twice, and after that we only got to make it when he went on business trips.
Although the microwave sausage links no longer inspire the same excitement that they once did, I still wanted to recapture the essence of this dinner that we loved so much. Unfortunately, instead of feeding it to Kate, I’d be feeding it to J, who has the same horror of tadpole in a hole that my dad once did. The aghast look on his face as I described the dish was priceless.
However, I can guarantee J will eat nearly anything with jalapenos, so I used this Barefoot Contessa recipe for Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread. It was decadent and crumbly and wonderful. The batter had a bit of a tang to it that reminded me of buttermilk, even though there wasn’t any in the recipe. I put slices of jalapeno on top of the cornbread before baking it, to recall the sausage links in the original dish, then added some extra sharp cheddar to the top and placed it in the oven.
While it was baking, J cooked up some black beans. We topped our squares of cornbread with black beans, and J added some extra jalapenos (surprise) and sour cream to his. It was wonderful. Far from the original tadpole in a hole that called for Jiffy mix and microwave sausage links, but still brought back the comfort food feelings of my former favorite. I liked it so much I had put a fried egg on top of the beans this morning and called it breakfast!
I am thrilled that this idea turned out so well. I have a number of childhood favorites and dishes with lots of sentimental value that just aren’t in line with the way I try to eat anymore, but I miss those meals. Next time I’m going to try and remake Stovetop Stuffing!