When I get a hankering for something, I become a relentless researcher. In a way, it's a hindrance--I believe there is one perfect way to make what I want using the ingredients I already have, and I look through every book and website I can find, sure that it will appear. That rarely happens, but that's how I end up making my own versions of things. (Sometimes it would be nice to just look up a recipe and buy what it calls for, though.)
Paul has been busy lately re-seasoning the cast iron skillet, and it's more beautiful than ever; it's got that slick, midnight-black, nonstick coating that it never really achieved before the last time it got caught in a little flood in the basement. We were anxious to get some good cracklin' cornbread going in that thing, although we didn't have cracklins, we just had bacon. And I didn't have milk, I just had buttermilk. And I wanted a little tiny bit of sugar and some flour along with the cornmeal, so we didn't have to eat cornmeal hockey pucks. The search was on. I never found a recipe that used the exact size of skillet we possess (9") and hot bacon drippings and buttermilk, etc., so I ended up adapting John Besh's recipe from his book My New Orleans. Luckily--and it was truly lucky, because I never really know what's going to happen when I alter recipes for baked goods--it was just what we wanted. A little chewy, very savory, and crispy on the edges from the screaming hot skillet.
There are about a million recipes on the interwebs for cornbread cooked in an iron skillet. If you just happen to wish for what I wished for, you can use this recipe and have a really good supper (and breakfast, if you fry up some leftover pieces and pour honey over them). If you don't have a skillet and just want a good basic cornbread to make in a pan, here's my favorite recipe (either with or without blueberries).
iron skillet cornbread with bacon and buttermilk
based on "cracklins corn bread" in My New Orleans by John Besh
- 3 Tablespoons bacon drippings
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 dash cayenne pepper
- 2 Tablespoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 2 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup crumbled crisply cooked bacon
- Put the bacon drippings into a 9-inch cast-iron skillet. Preheat the oven to 425 and slide the skillet in to heat.
- Combine cornmeal, flour, sugar, salt, cayenne, baking powder, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl. If you find any little lumps of baking powder, press them with your fingers to break them up.
- In another bowl, mix the eggs, buttermilk, and melted butter together well.
- Stir the egg mixture into the cornmeal mixture, and gently fold in the bacon.
- Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven and pour in the batter (the bacon drippings will pool up a little on top--that's a good thing). Return the skillet to the oven and bake until the bread is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately.
makes one 9" round loaf, about 8 to 10 slices
Note: This seems like a large amount of baking powder, especially compared to many other cornbread recipes, which typically use about 2 teaspoons. Well, it worked, and there was no weirdness with the leavening. I added baking soda to temper the acidity of the buttermilk, and the loaf turned out high and light in the center, but it still had those densely crispy edges.