Cornbread salads are a true favorite here in the South. This variation has sort of evolved through the years in my kitchen because of our love of spicy foods, Southwestern and Tex-Mex flavors. The fresh pico de gallo, is a must and takes my salad over the top. It also stays true to the type of food that inspired my take on this classic. This salad needs to be made ahead to allow the flavors to fully develop. If you plan on serving this salad for dinner, it can be made during early morning for the best same day results. Otherwise, overnight is ideal for the full impact and flavor combination to shine.
For the spicy ranch dressing:
1 [1.0 oz] package of Spicy Ranch dressing mix
1 1/3 cups milk/buttermilk
1 cup mayonnaise
For the pico de gallo:
6 medium Roma tomatoes
1 medium purple onion
1 medium jalapeno pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp lime juice
garlic salt and black pepper to taste
For the salad:
1 [7.5 oz] box cornbread mix plus ingredients to prepare
2 [12 oz] pkgs frozen Southwestern Corn [such as Steamfresh] OR 2 [11 oz] cans Mexi-Corn
1 [15 oz] can black beans, drained & rinsed
2 cups shredded Mexican cheese blend
8 oz shredded iceberg lettuce
12 oz. bacon cooked, crumbled & cooled
1/2 cup sour cream [for the top]
Prepare the cornbread per the instructions on the package and cool. Divide into thirds. Prepare the dressing using 1 1/3 cup of milk/buttermilk and 1 cup of mayo, then chill until assembling the salad. This is slightly more milk than called for on the package, but, I prefer the dressing a little thinner for this salad.
To prepare the pico de gallo, dice the tomatoes, onion, and jalapeno pepper. If you like your salsa super spicy, leave the seeds in the jalapeno, otherwise, use a teaspoon and remove them. Always wash your hands well after handling hot peppers. Add to a bowl, and toss with the chopped cilantro, lime juice and seasonings. If making ahead, place into the fridge and chill until you assemble. If you're using canned corn, drain the Mexican corn and black beans, and rinse the beans thoroughly. Mix together. If you're using frozen corn, cook according to the package directions and cool before tossing with the black beans.
To assemble the salad, I use a trifle bowl, simply because the colors are so pretty, it adds to the presentation. Gather all of your ingredients to help the layering process move along smoothly.
Divide the ingredients into thirds. Layer in this order...shredded lettuce, crumbled cornbread, bacon, Mexican corn and black beans, pico de gallo, dressing and shredded cheese. Repeat until all of the ingredients are used.
For the top, I reserve some of the pico de gallo, bacon crumbles, and cheese to garnish. So, theoretically, there are four layers of pico, bacon and cheese in my salad, but, whose counting? ☺ I'm pretty generous with the dressing when assembling my salad, so I use plain sour cream dolloped on top as a garnish. When serving a salad that includes spicy or hot peppers, I always try to place a few visible as a garnish, letting people know what's inside of the dish. So, a few rounds of jalapeno are placed on top of the sour cream for the finishing touch.
Refrigerate for several hours, or preferably overnight to allow the flavors to come together before serving. Yield: 12-14 servings
In the Summer months when fresh corn is abundant, I always use fresh corn in this salad. I roast a batch of Roasted Mexican Corn, and toss it with the black beans for the corn and bean layer.