Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Buttermilk cornbread

Also known as "skillet cornbread," because this is cooked in a cast-iron skillet. Which, for my money, is the only way to cook cornbread. A good cast-iron skillet will already have a built-in layer of bacon grease (that's what it's there for! To flavor the cornbread!), and, come on, isn't that the most appetizing-looking cornbread you've ever seen?

The Northern version of cornbread is typically sweet and not very dense, essentially a corn muffin rather than cornbread. This is incorrect. Every good Southerner knows that cornbread is a salty delivery system for fresh butter, and should be generally flavored with bacon grease.

2 cups yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
2 tablespoons sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 - 2 cups buttermilk
3-4 tablespoons bacon fat, lard, or vegetable oil

Sift the dry ingredients together, and add the eggs and buttermilk. Mix into a loose, soupy mass. Heat the fat or vegetable oil in a cast-iron skillet until smoking. Swirl it around the pan, then add to the batter and mix in well. Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 425 for 20-25 minutes, or until brown spots begin to appear on top. Serve hot.

Cost: a small bag of yellow cornmeal will run about $1.59; two quarts of buttermilk are about $3.59. Assume around 50 cents each for the cornmeal and buttermilk, 17 cents each for the eggs, and everything else should already be in the pantry. Around $1.30 for a big ol' pan of fresh buttermilk cornbread, which will yield at least 8-10 servings. For a true Southern experience, crumble it up into a glass of buttermilk and eat with a spoon.

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