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Monday, November 1

Cornbread Magic

I'm southern...which means I LOVE cornbread.  While I know it's made all over, the whole southern culture has truly embraced it, not just as an accoutrement to meals, but as an actual dish to be savored!!  It just screams home and hearth, and is a basic comfort food down here.

There are SOOO many ways to make it, too...with minor variations, you can tailor it to almost any meal.  So with that in mind, folks, we're going to explore the warm, wonderful world of Cornbread. 

First rule of thumb (which I think I was about 5 when I learned)...while self-rising cornmeal is convenient, it's NOT what we typically use down south.  ALL of the following recipes use regular cornmeal and baking powder for the lift, NOT self-rise.  If you are wondering, there IS a reason for this.  Different companies use different compounds when making self-rising cornmeal, which can drastically affect the end result (some rise more, some less).  By using regular cornmeal, and adding baking powder, you will always end up with more uniform results.

Second rule of thumb...the choice of using white or yellow cornmeal has NO real bearing on the end result.  The color is derived simply from the color of the dried corn that was milled, nothing more.  They taste virtually identical.  So, use whichever you wish...it's ENTIRELY up to you.

Final rule...the BEST pan you can cook cornbread in is cast iron.  A well seasoned 8" or 10" cast iron skillet that's been preheated (put it in the oven when you preheat that) will turn out a uniformly beautiful "loaf" almost every time.  The heat is so evenly distibuted that the crust cooks perfectly.  If you don't already have a cast iron skillet, I HIGHLY recommend getting one.  Oh, and ALWAYS remember....NEVER wash cast iron with soap!!!  Clean with water and a sponge ONLY...soap with strip the "season" from it, causing things to stick.

On to the recipes!!  I thought we'd begin with a Traditional Cornbread (with a few add-ins for variety) today, then we'll follow that with CornCakes (a pancake-like treat).  To finish, I thought I'd round us out with Mexican Cornbread.  Ready to begin?  Let's go!!

TRADITIONAL CORNBREAD

5 tablespoons butter, melted, divided
2 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoons salt
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup milk
2 large eggs, beaten

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place 2 tablespoons butter into a 10" cast iron skillet, and place in oven to preheat.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda thoroughly.  In a small bowl, mix the buttermilk, milk, remaining melted butter, and eggs, then pour into the cornmeal mix, and blend completely, eliminating most lumps (a few are fine).  Let stand for 5 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven, and with a hotpad, turn the skillet to let the butter coat the inside well.  Reduce oven heat to 350.  Pour batter into skillet, and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until golden brown and it starts to pull away from the sides slightly.  Remove from oven.  Using a large oven-proof plate, invert the plate over the top of the skillet, then turn over, allowing cornbread to fall onto plate.  Cut into squares or wedges.  Serve warm.  Makes 6-8 servings.

VARIATIONS/ADD-INS - You can use any or all of the following:
If you prefer a sweeter cornbread, add 3-4 tablespoons of sugar (to taste) to the dry ingredients, then prepare as directed.
Add 1 small can of kernel corn, drained well, to batter, prepare as directed.
Add 1 finely chopped Vidalia onion to batter, prepare as directed.

OLD FASHIONED CORNCAKES

2 cups cornmeal
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda (NOT baking powder)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Water, enough to make a good pancake-style batter

In a medium bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking soda and salt well.  Add milk, and blend.  Using 1/4 cup water at a time, add enough water to bring it to a good pancake-batter consistency.  Let stand 5 minutes.

In a large skillet, using butter-flavored cooking spray, fry pancake-size corncakes.  Makes about 20-24 corncakes.

MEXICAN CORNBREAD

2 tablespoons butter
2 large eggs
1/4 cup corn oil
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese, divided
1 8oz can creamed corn
1 large onion, chopped
2 fresh jalapenos, seeded, minced
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Place butter in 10" cast iron skillet, then place in oven to preheat.

In a small bowl, beat the eggs.  Add corn oil, buttermilk, 1 cup of the cheese, creamed corn, onion, and jalapenos and mix well.  In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt, blending thoroughly.  Gradually stir in the egg mixture, and mix until completely incorporated.  Let stand 5 minutes.

Remove skillet from oven.  Using a hotpad, turn the skillet to let the melted butter coat the entire pan.  Reduce oven heat to 350.  Pour batter into skillet, and cover with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.  Bake 30-35 minutes, until golden brown, and cheese is melted and lightly browned.  Serve directly from the skillet.  Makes 6-8 servings.

YUM YUM, folks!!  ENJOY!!!

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