Sunday, April 3, 2011

Crispy Corn Bread

There are a few lasting results of my time at UNC - I love good North Carolina BBQ, I wish I could find good shrimp and grits in NYC, I periodically suffer from serious cravings for real buttermilk breakfast biscuits, and I can't resist good hush puppies and cornbread.  Since I can't find a lot of these things in NYC as easily I would like, I have taken to making them at home whenever the craving hits.  I started thinking about cornbread earlier this week and finally got around to making it today.  I actually based tonight's dinner around my craving for cornbread.  I had originally intended to make baked eggs or a frittata, but somehow cornbread didn't sound like it went with the eggs.  But our Spicy "Fried" Chicken Cutlets with Honey-Tabasco Sauce and cornbread sounded like a perfect pairing.  So that's what we made.

The cornbread had a very interesting texture to it, probably due to the coarse grind of the stone-ground cornmeal we used combined with the nice crust on the bottom from being baked in the cast iron skillet.  It was moist, but not particularly fluffy.  Actually, it was a little crumbly and dense.  It had just the right amount of sweetness for me when served with some honey butter.  I took 1 tbsp of softened room temperature butter, stirred it together with some honey and freshly ground black pepper and then served the cornbread smeared with the butter.  It was delicious.  I think that this corn bread recipe would make excellent corn bread croutons.  There is a recipe in The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook for the Best Family Farm Corn-Bread Salad using this cornbread recipe.  The salad sounds delicious.  Once summer arrives and brings with it some truly ripe tomatoes, I will definitely be making another batch of this cornbread in order to make the salad.  I think it would also make a great accompaniment to a big bowl of spicy chili, but I might have to wait until next winter to make some chili and try that combination out.
Recipe after the jump!

Crispy Corn Bread
The Lees Bros. Southern Cookbook
By Matt Lee and Ted Lee

1 tbsp lard or unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups stone-ground cornmeal (yellow or white)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups whole or lowfat buttermilk
2 tbsp unsalted butter

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.  Grease a 12-inch skillet with the lard (or butter), leaving any excess in the pan, and place it in the oven.

In a large bowl, sift the dry ingredients together.  In a medium bowl, whisk the egg until frothy and then whisk in the buttermilk.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix thoroughly.  Melt the butter in a small skillet over low heat, and whisk the butter into the batter.

When the fat in the large skillet is smoking, carefully remove the skillet from the oven and swirl the fat around to coat the bottom and the sides of the pan evenly.  Pour the batter into the skillet; it should sizzle alluringly.  Bake for 15 minutes, or until the top of the bread is golen brown and the edge has pulled away from the side of the skillet.  Remove from the oven.

Cut the corn bread into 6 wedges in the skillet and serve hot, with honey butter.

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