There is an interesting article on Slate about the disparity between foodie culture and the prevalence of AllRecipes in terms of how the majority of home cooks in America actually cook. It’s worth a look. Although the findings might not surprise you too much- if you’re like me and do a lot of searching for recipes, AllRecipes comes up quite often at the top of the results. When we searched for cornbread recipes, an Allrecipes pick was the second on the list (with a 4.8 rating and 4,300 reviews- take that, Epicurious).
It’s easy to see the place cornbread has in American food culture- is there any vegetable more inherently American than corn? It brings to mind (just as a start) the swooping farm country of the Midwest, the heritage of Native Americans, stuffing at Thanksgiving (or dressing, if you will) and a staple in the South where it’s right at home on a plate of barbecue. Mark Bittman has lauded it as a must-have when it comes to vegetarian diets. The sweetness of it, its unique gritty texture and its versatility makes it a pleasure to eat. Also, it’s incredibly different depending on where you get it- restaurants in the North, for example, tend to treat it like cake in its sweetness and richness and sheer height. Purists eschew adding sweetness and prefer to let the corn flavor shine. This is a good recipe because it lands right in the middle and it’s incredibly easy to adapt the recipe to your taste.
A few cornbread musts (that’ll make you feel like you just stepped out of Little House on the Prairie) A cast-iron skillet, hot and ready for a swirl of melted butter or shortening. A hot oven. Baking soda to make the batter bubbly and then it goes into the hot pan, on the stove for a minute and then into the hot oven for about 20 minutes until the edges are crunchy and pull away from the sides.
Look at these little beauties- aren’t they pretty? Like two suns in the sky. (Is that folksy enough? I’m trying…) The great thing about cornbread is that once you have a base, or a classic cornbread recipe ahem, you can riff on it a lot and make it your own. Add some fresh corn niblets (extra points for the fun word), a few chopped chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (I added two and the bread has a serious kick plus a pretty red tint to it), jalapeno, chive and cheddar.
1 Cup of yellow cornmeal
1/2 Cup of all-purpose flour
1 Teaspoon of salt
1 Tablespoon of baking powder
1 Cup of buttermilk
1/2 Cup of milk
1 Whole egg
1/2 Teaspoon of baking soda
1/4 Cup of shortening or melted butter
2 Tablespoons of shortening or melted butter
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
- Combine cornmeal, our, salt, and baking powder in a bowl.
- Measure the buttermilk and milk in a measuring cup, add the egg and stir to combine. Add baking soda and stir.
- Pour the milk mixture into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
- In a small bowl, melt 1/4 shortening. Slowly add melted shortening to the batter, stirring until just combined. In an iron skillet, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons shortening over medium heat. Pour the batter into the hot skillet. Spread to even out the surface. (Batter should sizzle.)
- Cook on stovetop for 1 minute, then bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Edges should be crispy!