The Stock Pot: Fundamental Recipes – Southern Cornbread
Cornbread is one of those foods that wraps around you like a big bear hug on a brisk fall day and, for me, it’s so much more than a fabulous, satisfying quick bread. It conjures warm childhood memories that wash over me with one beautiful, crumbly bite. Suddenly, I am five years old again, standing next my grandfather at the counter in their cozy Florida kitchen. I watch him shuffle around the cupboards, gathering his cornmeal, eggs and buttermilk. He picks up his hefty cast iron skillet, pours in some oil, and slides it with great intent into a hot oven as I look on with wide-eyed wonder.
“Cheri,” he says authoritatively with his lazy half smile, “this is the key to a good crust on your cornbread,” and bends down to offer his secret with kind brown eyes that sparkle. “Get your oil nice and hot before you put the batter in.”
I nod slowly, rhythmically, as I digest this nugget of wisdom that blazed a trail for so many more to come from this gentle man whom I completely adored. After a few minutes, he retrieves the almost smoking pan and pours in the liquid gold. It hisses and splurps as it hits the hot skillet and I gasp with unparalleled excitement. Back into the oven it went until it emerged puffed, golden and glorious. Poppa anointed it with a good dose of creamy butter that danced and skated on its top as it melted into the hot bread.
It’s comfort in a pan. It’s home.
- vegetable oil, for the pan
- 2 cups self-rising yellow cornmeal
- pinch of sugar
- 1-1/2 cups buttermilk
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Coat the bottom of an 8-inch cast iron or ovenproof skillet with some oil and slide the pan into the oven until the oil is very hot, about 3 to 5 minutes.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal and sugar; make a well in the center. Add the buttermilk, oil and egg and stir until moist. Remove the pan from the oven, pour the batter into the hot pan and return it to the oven. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown, about 25 to 30 minutes. Serve immediately.
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