DOWNRIGHT SCRUMPTIOUS CORNBREAD
“You gonna eat yor’ cornbread?” Life, 1999
For about three years, I was under a cornbread curse. Yup. I couldn’t remember the ratios of the recipe, more than anything, but also tried to use an off-brand flour and baking powder. No matter what I did, the cornbread (while okay) was not the one that made me swoon. I tried googling recipes, but everyone has just a smidge of difference in how this all goes. Finally, in the back of an old cookbook, I found it! This is the most versatile, moist (yup, I said it) cornbread around—not too crumbly, just the right amount of corn flavor—and it stands up to almost any kind of tweaking you might want to employ. Don’t like sugar in your cornbread? Leave it out. Want yours sweet enough to be cake? Add more. The most important ratio here is flour to corn meal: don’t mess with it. This is where the “too crumbly” texture might bite you in the ass. Also, CAST IRON IS CRITICAL. If you are going to do a full cornbread round, either find cast iron or forego the whole damn thing. (I have cast iron muffin pans, but I reckon you could do them in the regular kind. SIGH.) Ready?
One cup plain cornmeal (yellow is best, no additives)
One cup all-purpose flour (I use King Arthur or other fine flour)
3 ½ teaspoons baking powder (make sure it’s fresh)
One teaspoon salt (plus a pinch)
Two tablespoons sugar (can be skipped or upped, depending on taste)
One large egg (fresh from the backyard, if possible)
One cup whole milk (don’t mess with this)
1/3 cup melted REAL butter (or oil, but I use butter)
Mix all dry ingredients with a whisk. Mix all wet ingredients in a smaller bowl, then pour and mix into dry ingredients. Bake in WELL-greased cast iron skillet until golden on top at 350 degrees.
Note: The most important trick to adding ingredients is to assure that they are properly drained/dry. For instance, I would warn against adding sliced and fresh tomatoes. Use dried! Otherwise, the juices are going to ruin the baking. I do use fresh peppers (and even thinly sliced okra), but these are also lightly patted with a paper towel first. Add one handful (roughly a cup, about four ounces or so) shredded cheddar and THINLY sliced jalapenos to wet batter. Or, throw in a handful of drained: corn, bacon, sautéed onions, or anything you would like! (Y’all, these would be fantabulous with a little smoked/pulled pork and a brown sugar glaze, but I’m a little wacky like that.)
And so, y’all have become my memory. If I lose my damn mind and need to recheck my recipe, I’m counting on y’all to help an ol’ witch out. :) Iffin’ you make this, holler back and let me know how it went? ‘Specially if you added something tasty and new. MWAH!