The first half of my Very Southern Snow Day has been spent gutting fish and encasing a bottle of vodka in ice for after dinner drinks with my guests. Today seemed like the perfect opportunity to really get in touch with my Russian roots. I couldn’t change my menu too much for tonight, but what I really want to make was cornbread.
Cornbread might be one of my favorite baked goods, at least to make, mostly because it doesn’t require precision. Many of you, judging by what was completely gone from the shelves at Publix, will be indulging in some chili tonight, or similar hot liquid concoction. And while that will warm your body, you need to warm your heart and your soul. That’s where the cornbread comes in. And while I put mine in the oven, if you lose power tonight, this can be done on the stove if you have a heavy lid for your skillet. I also recommend some local cornmeal, found here.
What you need:
A spoonful of bacon bits (these are vegan, gluten-free, and kosher, by the way)
A stick of unsalted butter
2 cups of medium ground cornmeal
2 cups of maseca (corn flour)
2 pinches of kosher salt
½ teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
2 cups of buttermilk (didn’t buy buttermilk? Squeeze a bit of lemon juice into some whole milk or use plain yogurt.)
1-2 eggs, depending on how dense you want your cornbread
- Heat the butter in your skillet on medium heat, let it melt. When it bubbles, add the bacon bits. When the bacon bits are burnt, either strain the butter into a container to reserve it, or carefully and lovingly scoop out the bacon and discard without sacrificing the butter quantity. You want lots of butter. You do, you do. Preheat your oven as high as it gets. If it doesn’t get that hot, set it to your hottest broiler setting.
- Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the wet (including the egg) in another. Combine them. If you need to add more dry ingredients, add some more cornmeal. If it needs to be moistened, add some buttermilk. Exact measure isn’t what we’re aiming for here, it’s okay. It should be the consistency of wet sand. A wooden spoon works best, a sturdy spatula is fine.
- Really get that butter hot in that skillet now. High heat is fine if you’re as impatient as me. Still with the skillet on the heat, add the batter to the skillet and spread it out close to even. Confession, sometimes I add another half stick of butter at this point. Enjoy this in moderation, by the way. When you can tell the batter is somewhat set and there’s a good smell and a crust starting to form on your cornbread (about 2-3 minutes), cut the heat and stick that sucker in the oven. In the industrial oven, this takes about 6 minutes without fail, but in my oven at home under the broiler, this takes closer to 4 minutes before the top goes black. WATCH YOUR CORNBREAD, YA’LL. When the top is a beautiful sea of gold with brown crested waves, it’s done. Take it out (with oven mitts, please) and let it rest a minute. I like to garnish my cornbread with flaky sea salt and either sprigs of rosemary or thyme, but if you want more butter, be my guest. Seriously, please. I need people to unashamedly eat butter with.
Note: if you are doing this on the stove, put the lid on your skillet and lower the heat to medium. It’ll be done when a knife comes out of the center clean.
When I serve this to my friends and loved ones from New Jersey, I tend to drizzle some honey over it. But tonight, enjoy this the way nature intended: savory and dipped into something piping hot and spicy. Stay safe and warm, everyone, and happy eating!