A Pueblo chef is sharing a new recipe in which Pueblo chiles “really shine” and elevate a traditional Thanksgiving dish to a whole new level of flavor.
Certified Executive Chef John Jakeman, serves as director of nutritional services for the Senior Resource Development Agency where he oversees the creation of an average of 450 meals a day for Pueblo’s older residents. The clients Jakeman feeds are stopping in to have a congregate meal at one of three sites in town, or getting their meals delivered through the “Meals on Wheels” program five days a week.
At home, Jakeman, a Pueblo chile fanatic, can make his dishes “as spicy as I want — I want to taste the Pueblo chiles,” he said. That means Pueblo chiles often show up in his Thanksgiving gravy and even the sweet potato souffle.
When the Chieftain asked if he had a recipe for Thanksgiving stuffing, or dressing, as he prefers to call it, he said he didn’t have one but he volunteered to come up with one.
Jakeman agreed to not only showcase the Pueblo chile for Chieftain readers but perhaps, along the way, school others about the Pueblo pepper’s versatility for readers at our sister publications in New Mexico where Hatch chile is king.
“I grew up in the South and we had ‘dressing,'” he said. “It always had cornbread and it was an affordable way to use old cornbread that had dried out.”
Jakeman starts with homemade cornbread that has a rich buttermilk component lending a tangy taste to the sweetness of the cornmeal. He said busy chefs are more than welcome to try the recipe with a box mix, too.
His recipe calls for Pueblo chile, and “when it comes to Hatch chile or Pueblo chile, I have to say that flavor-wise Hatch chile is a one trick pony – its heat,” he said.
“To me Hatch chile provides a pepper flavor and heat, but Pueblo chile, when it’s roasted, has smoke flavor notes and more floral notes, because remember the chile is a fruit. When the Pueblo chiles are ripened to red that’s when they really shine,” he said.
The sweetness of cornbread dressing is the perfect compliment to the Pueblo chile, he said.
Other spices such as sage, thyme or even oregano should be flavor enhancers that take a backseat.
“Let that chile shine through — don’t distract from the star of the show,” he said with a laugh.
Pueblo Chile Cornbread Dressing
2 cups all purpose flour2 cups medium grind cornmeal¼ cup sugar1 Tablespoon baking powder2.5 teaspoons Kosher salt4 large eggs, whisked2 cups buttermilk½ cup (1 stick) melted butter
1 cup (2 sticks) butter2 medium onions, diced small6 stalks celery, diced small1/4 cup to 1/2 cup roasted, peeled and diced Pueblo chiles (add more or less depending on desired heat level)1 Tablespoon finely chopped sage (optional)Kosher salt to tasteGround black pepper to taste3 large eggs3-½ cups chicken or turkey stock
Preheat oven to 375 degrees, grease 13-by-9 inch baking pan and place in oven.In a medium bowl combine all dry ingredients, mix until combined. In a separate bowl add buttermilk, eggs and melted butter, whisk until combined. Pour wet ingredients into dry and ingredients and stir just until combined, do not over mix. Pour batter into heated pan and bake for 15-20 min or until a toothpick is clean when inserted.When done remove cornbread and cool. Cut cooled cornbread into 1-by-1 inch pieces.
Turn oven down to 350 degrees.Place cornbread on a baking sheet and bake 40-50 minutes or until pieces are crusty and golden brown, remove and cool. In a large skillet sweat onions, celery and diced Pueblo chiles in butter. Set aside.Whisk eggs and stock together in a large bowl. Add celery, onions, chile mixture along with dried cornbread. Stir gently and let sit until all liquid is absorbed. Add chopped sage, salt and pepper. Stir one last time.Spread mixture evenly in a 13-by-9 inch baking pan taking care not to compress the mixture excessively. Cover and bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes until bubbles form around the edges. Increase heat to 425 degrees and remove cover. Bake until top is golden brown.
Cornbread can be made days ahead.Store bought dressing can be used, skip to step 7 and follow directions on box for baking.More or less stock may be needed depending on dryness of cornbread pieces.
Chieftain reporter Tracy Harmon covers business news. She can be reached by email at email@example.com or via X, formerly Twitter, at twitter.com/tracywumps. Support local news, subscribe to The Pueblo Chieftain at subscribe.chieftain.com.