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Poblano peppers spice up this stuffing.

Image: Ray Kuglar

Bobby Matos, executive chef at River Oaks favorite State of Grace, grew up in San Diego and attended culinary school in New York before moving to Houston. While he was excited to get to know a new food culture in the Bayou City, he didn’t expect it to change the way he celebrated Thanksgiving.

“I’d never had cornbread stuffing until I came here,” Matos says. “My parents being from California, it was the box of dry stuffing mix. And they cooked the snot out of the turkey for 14 hours,” he adds, laughing. He also learned the fine Cajun art of deep-frying a turkey, completely anathema to a kid from SoCal. “My parents would never fry a turkey. It’s so dangerous!”

It was the fluffy, onion-studded cornbread stuffing served at his East Texas in-laws’ annual holiday gatherings that Matos eventually found a way to work into his own menu at State of Grace. Sous chef John Quinn came up with the idea of adding poblanos to the recipe—“because it ties in Mexico,” explains Matos, who likes to feature Houston’s diverse foodways in his cooking—and a recipe was born.

Though it’s called “poblano spoonbread” on the menu (and served with seared scallops), that’s just another nickname for the versatile stuffing. And because it’s so adaptable, Matos says, “you can put whatever you want in it. It’s really easy, it’s almost easier than even buying stuffing from the store. Get some Jiffy boxes, make some quick cornbread, and mix a bunch of it.”

Even better? “You have leftover cornbread! You have two dishes! You’ll come to Thanksgiving and be a hero because you brought two dishes!”

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Matos: a cornbread stuffing convert

Image: Ray Kuglar

Recipe: Poblano Spoonbread

Serves 12

Ingredients

  • Half a sheet pan (18” x 13”) of day-old or leftover cornbread
  • 5 ears of grilled corn, shucked and cleaned
  • 2 grilled poblano peppers, skinned and seeded
  • 1 yellow onion, grilled
  • 16 egg yolks, beaten
  • 16 egg whites, whipped
  • 4 T salt
  • 1 T Tabasco sauce
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Crumble cornbread into large bowl.
  3. Cut kernels off cobs of corn. Add to cornbread.
  4. Mince onions and poblanos. Add to cornbread.
  5. Blend salt, Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce gently into beaten eggs yolks. Add to cornbread. Mix well.
  6. Gently fold whipped egg whites into cornbread mixture.
  7. Pour mixture into full-sized (18” x 26”) sheet pan and bake at 360°F for 16 minutes. Turn sheet pan around, then bake for a final 16 minutes. Serve hot.
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