Monday, September 17, 2012

Hoe Cakes (and our visit to Cincinnati)

I would jump right into describing how much I enjoyed these hoe cakes, but there is a bit of a backstory that needs to be discussed first.  A few weekends ago Alex and I went to Kentucky/Cincinnati to visit his family.  We did a lot of things when we were there - we visited with family, saw some fireworks, made about a billion gallons of chili (vegetarian and beef in case you were curious), ate some really delicious upscale Mexican food at Nada in downtown Cincinnati, took lots of pictures of the pig statues that are all over downtown Cincinnati (see below - I was a little obsessed), sampled Graeter's ice cream and also visited a town in Kentucky called (I kid you not) Rabbit Hash.  We happened to visit Rabbit Hash during their Old Timers Festival.  There was live music and food, plus there was this guy with a hundred year old corn/grain mill selling freshly ground cornmeal and grits.  I couldn't resist - I bought two big bags (one of yellow cornmeal and one of grits).  Along with his cornmeal he offered two recipes, one for cornbread and one for hoe cakes.  Now I wasn't born and raised a good Southern girl like Paula Deen so I had never tried a hoe cake before, but I decided to give it a shot.  And they were awesome.  Speaking of Paula Deen, she has a whole post about hoe cakes (including several recipes) on her website.  Anyway, I  liked that the hoe cakes were texturally a cross between a pancake and cornbread.  I also liked that they were just slightly sweet and somehow manage to avoid the heaviness and sleepiness that pancakes always evoke.

While in Cincinnati I also shocked Alex's family members with my ability to eat spicy food by accidentally dumping a heaping amount of dried chili on a pizza and then eating it all.  Incidentally, my tolerance for spicy food can be blamed on my mother, although it really took living in China for me to embrace truly spicy food.  I grew up with hot sauce on the Thanksgiving table to be served with the turkey and a planter of Thai chilis in the backyard (which was discarded after my parents learned that having kids near Thai chilis when they can touch the chilis and then rub their eyes is a terrible idea - many tears ensued).  Alex's uncle John grows his own hot peppers and makes his own wonderful dried chili powders (we are currently in possession of tiny apothecary-esque bottles of dried Hungarian wax, hot and medium banana peppers, habanero, cayenne, jalapeno and a spicy blend of several different chili varieties.  We haven't figured out exactly what we are going to use them for (although we have a couple of ideas), so stay tuned for some spicy recipes in the near-ish future!  Thanks John!

Recipe and more pictures after the jump!

Hoe Cakes

1 1/2 cup cornmeal
1/4 cup flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c buttermilk
2 tsp sugar
4 tsp melted butter, plus additional for frying
vegetable oil for frying

Mix all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl with a spatula.  Heat a griddle or cast iron over medium-heat.  Add a drizzle of vegetable oil, plus a little butter to grease up the pan.  Once the butter is melted, swirl it all around and then spoon about 1/4 cup batter onto hot griddle per hoe cake and fry hoe cakes like pancakes until golden brown and crisp on both sides.  Remove hoe cakes from the griddle with a spatula transfer to a covered plate to keep warm.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve with butter and honey, or maple syrup.


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