We had a pot luck lunch at the office today to celebrate the holiday season. My contribution was homemade skillet cornbread. It's a very easy recipe so I figured I'd show you guys how to do it. Cornbread is a cornerstone in cuisine of the Southern States. Its origins date back to the ancient native people of the Americas. They were cultivating and eating corn and ground cornmeal for thousands of years before European colonialism appeared. Cornbread is rustic, ancient and goes with just about anything. I think it goes particularly well with chili, chicken or cooked greens. It does not contain yeast so you don't need to worry about kneading the dough or waiting for it to rise. It has baking powder and baking soda as the leavening agents. It has more of a cake texture than a bread texture and the cornmeal gives it a particular crumbly toothsomeness. It's rich and a little sweet. This recipe uses jalapeño, cheddar, scallions and corn kernels as well which add flavours, colour and a variety of textures. What makes cornbread corn bread is the use of cornmeal. Adding kernels of actual corn is not traditional but it's tasty and adds a nice sweetness to compliment the mild heat of the jalapeño. I've seen some recipes that add creamed corn too. Feel free to follow whatever your wee heart desires.
More on this recipe's versatility, this version includes the addition of sugar. From my understanding the adding or omitting of sugar is based on regional preference. There are some who wouldn't dare add sugar to cornbread. I find the added sweetness works well in this version because it has some spice but, again, feel free to omit it or include it as you wish.
The best way to cook cornbread is in a piping hot cast iron skillet. That's how you get a beautiful, golden crust on the bottom and the sides. I just seasoned my cast iron on the weekend so it was the perfect opportunity to put it in action. I love my cast iron cookware. If you take care of them properly they'll last long after you do. Its often passed down through a generation or two (or three). It's perfect for staying very hot and keeping an even heat distribution. That way you get a great sear or crust on whatever you cook in it. In this recipe we're going to preheat the skillet in the oven to ensure the perfect crust on the cornbread. If you don't have a cast iron skillet you can omit that step and use a baking dish. You won't get an epic crust that way but it will still be good.
1 1/4 cups ground cornmeal
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar (optional)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup grated cheddar
1 large jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
2 scallions, finely chopped
1/2 cup of frozen corn (optional)
1 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup 2% (or whole) milk
2 eggs, beaten
8 tbsp butter (1 stick)
Preheat oven to 425 F/218 C and place a cast iron skillet on the middle rack to heat up while you make the batter.
In a large bowl combine the cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda and cayenne and whisk to incorporate.
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, milk and buttermilk. Meanwhile, melt most of the butter reserving a tbsp or so for the skillet later. Let the melted butter cool a bit so that it doesn't cook the eggs.
Whisk the egg, buttermilk and milk mixture into the dry ingredients.
Whisk in the slightly cooled, melted butter.
Mix in the grated cheddar, jalapeño, scallions and corn.
Carefully remove the hot skillet out of the oven and reduce the heat to 375 F/191 C. Add the remaining butter to the skillet and cover. Don't forget to grease the sides as well.
Pour the cornbread batter into the skillet. It should sizzle right away and the butter should bubble up the sides. Smooth out the top a bit with spatula, but don't fuss about making it perfect.
Place in the middle of your preheated oven and bake for 25 minutes or until it's golden and an inserted toothpick comes out clean.
Carefully invert onto a wire rack to cool. I mean seriously though. Can we talk about this amazing, golden brown crust?
That's it! Pretty forgiving right? It got great reviews at the pot luck. Simple but satisfying. It's not very spicy but has a pleasant, mild heat. Feel free to add as much or as little jalapeño/cayenne as you like. The sweetness from the sugar and the corn with the richness from the butter and eggs make a well-rounded flavour profile. If you like, you can even add a tbsp of Dijon mustard to your batter and that will help to bring out the cheddar flavour. Cornbread is best when it's a little warm but it's nice at room temperature. Try to eat it up within a day. For this reason I find it's good for families or groups. In a pinch you can always freeze any unused portions. It will keep well for 2-3 months. If you're celebrating Christmas and making a turkey you could use it as stuffing. lol
I hope you give this a try. Leave me a comment to let me know how it turns out or post a picture of it on your Twitter or Instagram and tag me @FoodByBram so I can see! I'd love to see all your cornbreads. This recipe is pretty foolproof. I believe in you. ;)
Til Next Time!