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Sunday, March 08, 2009

daily bliss: cornbread

Friday H. and I walked for 3.5 miles in light layers, soaking up the sunshine, glimpsing green grass under all the snowmelt, and slipping through standing water and mud.

Today the wind has been hollering for hours, the ice and sleet turned to all snow this afternoon, and about 6 new inches are draped over trees, porches, driveways, like a suffocating shroud (I realize this simile is not only hyperbolic but also redundant).

This snow is making me surly and SHOUTY.

To alleviate the aforementioned negative emotions, I turned to an old favorite: Cornbread, Southern style, cooked in a Lodge cast iron skillet.

I use my Mom's recipe, which she copied from the local newspaper years ago when they ran a feature on Southern cooking. As I've mentioned before, I lived in the South--Auburn, Alabama and Carrollton, Georgia, to be precise--for seven years during my doctoral program and my first job. And, although I grew up in the Midwest and have since returned, my Southern roots go much deeper--my Mom's parents moved to Michigan from Arkansas in the 1950s, but the South always loomed large in our foodways, conversation, and mythology. Cornbread is a staple around our homes.

I generally halve this recipe, since I have a smallish--6 inch, I believe--skillet.

2 c. cornmeal (regular, not stone-ground. I tried that once and, well, it had an odd texture and taste)
1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 c. buttermilk
2 eggs
4 TBS canola oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Pour the oil in the skillet and place in the oven while you quickly mix up the rest of the batter. Don't forget about the oil in the oven, and don't leave it too long either or you'll have a situation on your hands...

Mix together the dry ingredients. Make a little well in the center; crack in the eggs into the well and beat lightly. Pour in the buttermilk, and whisk the batter together until just combined. Pour in the hot oil, stir to combine, pour batter in the hot pan, and place in the oven. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the center is set and the edges just start to brown. Remove the pan from the oven, tip the bread out onto a plate, and cut into wedges. Slather with butter and enjoy the steamy, creamy interior and the crisp edges. If you're part yankee like I am, you may also like your cornbread drizzled with maple syrup.

Tonight I skipped the butter and topped my split cornbread with a quick "stew" of fire roasted tomatoes, black eyed peas, seasoned with carrot, onion, celery, garlic, red pepper flakes, and bay leaves. Delicious, different, and hearty for a night when winter's dancing around outdoors.

(and, as a side note, I apologize for yesterday's incredibly lame post. no inspiration other than the lingering effects from the day's conference=less than stellar topic).

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