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Working with Leftovers: Savory Muffin Makeover

Not every recipe is a success. I’ve made beer-based quick breads before with good results but when I opted to bake a cheesy beer bread batter in muffin form, the savory muffins were a disappointment: too dry and bitter for my tastes. Loathe to throw out something that contained so much good cheese, I stuck the remaining four beer-cheese muffins into the freezer and ignored them for months.

The savory muffins reemerged from behind the frozen peas during a burst of cleaning frenzy, and once again I almost tossed them. The long wait in the freezer had not made them any more enticing (go figure). Because I really hate to waste food, I gave the muffins a defrosting grace period, hoping that would push me to find some way to use at least one or two of them.

The moment of revelation came thanks to serendipitous positioning: while defrosting in the fridge, the savory muffins sat next to a container of leftover black beans that had been seasoned in a pan with onions and garlic and oregano. The obvious answer to the unwanted muffin problem was staring me in the face.

Savory Muffin Makeover Materials:

  • 2 unwanted beer and cheese bread muffins
  • a cup or two of cooked (or canned) black beans, ideally already pan fried with onions and garlic and the herbs of your choice. If the beans are plain, then you’ll also need about half an onion and one or two cloves of garlic and a teaspoon or so of fresh oregano or winter savory (less if it’s dried).
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced (seeds removed unless you like things hot)
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • cast iron pan

Heat cast iron pan to medium-high heat. If flavoring beans first, add some olive oil to the pan, turn heat down a bit and sauté diced onion until soft and fragrant. Add chopped garlic, wait 10-15 second to give the garlic some heat, then add the beans and chopped herbs. Once the flavors have intermingled  to your liking, remove seasoned bean mixture to a plate or something.

Add the butter (be generous) to the hot pan. Leave heat at medium high. Roughly crumble the muffins into the pan and let them soak up the melted butter. Don’t make the crumbs too fine – you want some variation in size of muffin pieces, sort of like small croutons. Stir a bit, then let things sit so the crumbs can brown. I usually have to walk away from the pan for a minute or two so I don’t overstir. Once you have some nice browning happening, add in the diced jalapeno and stir a bit more. After a few minutes, you can add the seasoned beans back into the pan. Extra oregano is optional. Salt and pepper to taste. If available, grate some sharp cheddar over everything.

Serve with a fried egg for a very filling lunch or dinner, or use as a stuffing for your roast chicken. Or you could make this with sausage – just omit the butter, start the crumbled sausage in the hot pan and when that’s cooked, add the muffin croutons to the sausage, to soak up some of the fat. Then add in the jalapeno and after that the seasoned beans. Voila.

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