“Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking” (Clarkson Potter) is one of the most acclaimed cookbooks of the past year.
For good reason.
Activist, historian and food writer Toni Tipton-Martin’s book, of which I received a review copy, contains more than 100 recipes. But it is so much more than a cookbook. It is a resounding testament to the ingenuity, fortitude, passion and perseverance of African-American cooks throughout the ages.
When you think of African-American cuisine, you might automatically think soul food. But Tipton-Martin shows the real breadth of the cuisine. With hundreds of historical cookbooks she’s collected over the years, she combed through recipes to get at the heart of how black cooks have richly shaped our culinary landscape through the ages.
The result are recipes that are both modern and timeless, such as “Curried Meat Pies,” “Jamaican Jerk Ribs,” “Honey-Soy Glazed Chicken Wings,” “Baked Ham Glazed with Champagne,” and “Caramel Cake.”
What’s more, with many of the recipes, she also includes the actual historical recipe that inspired it with its succinct measurements and directions. By doing so, she connects the past to the present, making you really feel as if you are carrying on a cultural and culinary tradition whenever you take the time and effort to make one of these recipes.
Tipton-Martin’s “Rice Muffins” was inspired by a recipe in “Plantation Recipes” (1959) by Leesie Bowers, whose grandmother was born into slavery in South Carolina. In that rice-growing region, rice was often used as a filler to extend meager slave rations of salt pork, cornmeal and molasses.
In these muffins, rice is incorporated into a batter of flour, cornmeal and whole milk, to give a unique texture — crunchy on the outside, and fluffy yet slightly chewy on the inside.
The recipe calls for white cornmeal. But I just used the yellow cornmeal, which I already had on hand. I also used medium-grain white rice, but you could probably use any type you like.
Mild and pillowy, these muffins have the faint taste of corn and rice. Slather them with butter, jam or honey. Or drag them across the pool of gravy on your plate — and pause in appreciation of an important taste of the past.
(Makes 12 muffins)
1 1/3 cups whole milk
1/2 cup white cornmeal
1 cup hot cooked rice
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons melted butter, plus more for the pan
Softened butter, for serving (optional)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a bowl, whisk together the milk and cornmeal. Let stand 5 minutes. In a separate bowl, use a fork to fluff the rice and separate the grains. Use a wooden spoon to stir the rice into the milk and cornmeal mixture. Whisk in the flour, sugar (if using), salt, and baking powder. Whisk in the egg yolks and melted butter and stir until the batter is smooth. Place a 12-cup muffin tin in the preheated oven and heat until hot.
Meanwhile, in a bowl, with a whisk or hand mixer (or in a stand mixer), whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Carefully fold the whites into the batter.
Remove the hot tin from the oven. Carefully brush with butter and return to the oven until the butter is sizzling hot. Pour the batter into the muffin cups. Bake until the muffins are lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. Serve immediately with softened butter, if desired.
From “Jubilee” by Toni Tipton-Martin
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