Monday, May 25, 2015

In My Trusty Iron Skillet

In my fantasy cooking life I am the kind of hardscrabble Southern cook who makes pie crust without checking the recipe, confidently bakes biscuits lighter than air, and handily serves pans of cornbread as a staple at nearly every meal. Neighbors rave about my pies. I store bacon grease in a jar (okay that I actually do). The kitchen shelves are stocked with jars of jelly and pickles and fruits that I home can and my hungry family devours around our ever expanding farm table. James comes in hungry every night after a hard day's work and dips wedges of our fluffy house specialty cornbread into creamy gravy.
I love cornbread -- slathered with butter, pan fried with eggs or doused in milk for the quintessential Southern midnight snack. James tolerates the occasional slice but he doesn't crave it or look wantonly at barbecue or beans when there isn't a skillet of bright yellow bread nearby.
And so, I curb my baser, cornier tendencies and these days I only make cornbread when the feeling is so Americana the day can't progress without a crispy crusted wedge of yellow goodness.
Memorial Day while I was serving sticky pork ribs, is one of those kind of days. Though I find it romantic I don't soak my cornmeal overnight in buttermilk the way old time cooks might. I never add sugar. As they say below the Mason Dixon line that clearly was some sort of Yankee invention. And, I never use flour -- just rough, crumbly cornmeal.

Preheat the oven to 450ยบ
Cook 3-4 slices of bacon in a 9" iron frying pan until crisp. Set the bacon on a paper towel to drain and reserve 4 TB of the bacon fat, leaving the rest (at least 1 TB) in the pan).
Put iron frying pan withe the remaining bacon grease in eh oven to heat.
In a medium bowl combine 2 cups yellow cornmeal (I like coarse or medium grind), 1 tsp salt,  1/2 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder, and the cooled bacon chopped.
In a separate bowl beat together 1 1/2 cups buttermilk, 4 TB bacon fat reserved from the skillet, and one egg.
Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined.
Pour the batter into the heated iron frying pan and bake fro 20 minutes.
Serve piping hot from the skillet.

A taste of America for an American holiday.

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