Monday, December 12, 2011


It’s odd, but I don’t think I’d ever made cornbread before this. I’ve eaten some that I’ve liked over the years (mostly at barbecue/soul food restaurants), but generally I can take or leave it, and I mostly leave it. At its worst, it can be dry, crumbly, and bland. Everyone talks about how much better it is when cooked in a cast-iron skillet, though, so ever since I got a skillet of my own I’ve been thinking I might give it a try. A couple of months ago, I stumbled across the perfect-looking recipe at A Cozy Kitchen. Pouring the hot oil from the skillet into the batter seemed a little weird (and perilous—wear sturdy oven mitts!), but since the recipe was adapted from no less an authority than the Homesick Texan herself, I couldn’t argue. Aside from that little adventure, the bread was easy to make and turned out perfectly: crisp-crusted without and tender within, with the buttermilk and cheese warding off dryness and the jalapeno providing a nice kick. Maybe it was the skillet or maybe it was the recipe, but the bread had a bit more structural integrity than some I’ve seen; it held its shape well when sliced and wasn’t overly crumbly. I served it with chili, but it would have been just as satisfying on its own, with a little butter.

So consider me a cornbread convert! This will definitely be replacing tortilla chips as my chili accompaniment of choice, and I’m contemplating pairing it it with black bean soup soon. I didn’t have any bacon grease on hand, but I’d love to try that next time instead of canola oil; a little bit of porky smokiness would really put this over the top.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or bacon drippings
2 cups cornmeal (yellow or white)
½ cup sifted all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1½ teaspoons salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
2 cups buttermilk, shaken
2 jalapeños, diced
1¼ cup shredded cheddar cheese, divided

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put the oil or drippings in a 12-inch cast-iron skillet and place it in the oven for a few minutes until it’s sizzling.

2. Meanwhile, mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. Whisk egg and buttermilk in a medium bowl. Mix the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, then fold in jalapeños and 1 cup of shredded cheddar.

3. Take the cast-iron skillet out of the oven, pour hot oil/drippings into batter, and mix. Pour batter into skillet and top with remaining ¼ cup cheddar. Bake for 20 minutes, until brown on top and pulling away from the sides of the skillet.

4. Turn bread out of the skillet, slice into wedges or squares, and serve.

Serves: About 8
Time: 30 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; can be frozen.

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