I was nearly out of whole wheat pastry flour and, with the holidays approaching, I knew I would need some more, sooner rather than later. I placed an order with Amy at Wild Hive Farm, my wonderful local flour producers, and asked Tai to pick it up on his way home from work. At the last minute, I tacked on a “grab some corn meal, too, OK?” request to my darling hubs, because the last time I made pizza, I realized I was out and should replenish. Or I should say I thought I was out. Let me ‘splain…
I don’t use a whole lot of cornmeal in my everyday cooking. Sprinkled on the pizza peel to prevent sticking of the dough; ditto for fresh pasta; the occasional 1/2-cup tossed into a bread recipe for a little flavor twist. The standard 1 and 1/2 lb package from Wild Hive keeps me in cornmeal for months. Since Wild Hive grains are freshly-milled, organic and 100% whole grain, they don’t have the shelf life of your average supermarket bag of flour; I store them in the freezer if I possibly can for maximum shelf life. The cornmeal always sits in a corner of the freezer door (always the same spot, since I took the missive “everything in its right place” to heart long before Radiohead sang a ditty about it.) Since the cornmeal was not “in its right place” in the freezer door, naturally, it didn’t exist. So I asked Tai to pick up more. But, as Tai points, out, I failed to specify how much more: a thimbleful, a cup, enough to fill the average Beverly Hills kidney-shaped swimming pool? Well, the answer is not x = 7, nor is it even 42: in this case “some” = “5 pounds.” Five pounds of cornmeal, when I already have a jam-packed chest freezer and 15 lbs of whole wheat pastry flour to store. On top of all that, when I looked helplessly in the freezer, trying to figure out where I was going to Jenga in 5 lbs of cornmeal, I found a brand-new, unopened, 1 and 1/2 lb bag of cornmeal from Wild Hive, not in its right place (i.e., the right-hand side of the freezer door, not the left-hand side. Oh, the humanity! I blame Tai; for why else do we keep husbands around, if not to blame them for stuff that is not in its right place?).
Ahem. So. All of that is a really long-wided way of saying that I have 6 and 1/2 lbs of cornmeal in the house, taking up valuable freezer real estate. Cornbread: cornbread is the answer to this particular problem, my friends (possibly 42 batches of cornbread). And where do we go when looking for an authentic cornbread recipe? The Homesick Texan, of course! This recipe was easy-peasy, used a lot more cornmeal, and less flour, than many other recipes out there, and was easily adaptable to my roasted-corn-and-jalapeno whims. All in all, delicious: we’ve had it smothered in red beans, slathered with butter and heated with a little cheese on top. It would make a great stuffing base (on the off chance you’re thinking of roasting up a massive bird in the coming weeks) and I envision a spicy, Mexican-inpsired bread pudding, if you’re into that sort of thing. I can see my cornmeal supply dwindling in my mind’s eye. Now where did I put that skillet?
Adapted from Perfect Cornbread by The Homesick Texan
- 2 cups corn meal
- 1/2 cup whole white wheat flour (or all-purpose flour)
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- couple dashes of cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup corn kernels (I used frozen)
- 2 medium jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 cups buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- 2 – 3 tbsp bacon grease, olive oil or butter
- Preheat the broiler on your oven.
- If the corn is frozen, rinse under hot water until thawed, dry well (wrapped in a kitchen towel) and spread in an even layer in a large skillet. Roast under the broiler until browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes (or use frozen grilled corn from summer!). Remove corn from oven and set aside to cool.
- Lower oven temperature to 450 degrees F.
- Whisk together corn meal, flour, baking powder, salt and cayenne pepper in a large bowl. Whisk together buttermilk and egg in a small bowl.
- Add 2 tbsp bacon grease (or oil or butter) to a cast iron skillet (9 or 10-inch) or large pie dish. Put the pan in the oven and heat until grease is melted and shimmering, but not smoking.
- Add the jalapeno and corn kernels to the flour mixture; mix. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix just enough to combine; do not overmix. Add the hot bacon grease to the batter; fold a few times, then transfer the batter to the hot, greased skillet or pie dish. Bake for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the top begins to brown, the sides pull away from the pan and a cake tester inserted into the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.
Serves 8 – 10.
- I used 1/2 cup of roasted corn kernels; it could have used a bit more, so I upped to amount to 3/4 cup. Please don’t skip the roasting step as it adds a delicious smoky flavor to the bread.
- This was delicious fresh out of the oven, and perfect for sopping up the gravy from a pot of red beans, but it was just a touch dry for eating out of hand. If you are serving with chili or beans, or making for a stuffing, 2 tbsp of fat is fine; if you’d like to snack on it plain, I would add additional fat. I used bacon grease for my recipe and may try adding a tablespoon or butter, in combination with the bacon grease, next time.
- My only cast iron skillet is small, about 7 inches. I cooked this batch in both the skillet and a small (7-inch) pie dish. The bread does not rise all that much, and mine were pretty flat, so I think this could easily fit in a larger skillet.
Best eaten fresh; we did store this for a few days, wrapped in a clean kitchen towel at room temperature, but it got quite dry and crumbly. Still good heated with lots of butter, but too dry without some accompaniment. I imagine these would freeze well, like most quickbreads, for up to 6 months.
mmm looks good!
Cornbread is also a great way to use up salsas or relishes that have lost a bit of zing. I adapted the recipe for Corny Cornbread from “Simply in Season”, which doesn’t use any extra flour–just corn meal, and replaced the 2 cups of corn with 1+ cup salsa. You can use more salsa, but would need to reduce the amount of milk. I made this last night with a mix of last year’s peach salsa and hot salsa and it was delicious!
Wow, Anduin, sounds like a great idea! I might have to steal that for a Use it or Lose it! post. 🙂
my mouth is watering. i love cornmeal and this recipe looks awesome. wild hive’s cornmeal is especially delicious! i add cornmeal to scones, biscuits and pie crusts for a little grit and sweetness, 1/2 cup cornmeal to 1 & 1/2 cup wheat flour is a nice ratio…
Would you serve this cornbread with a Thanksgiving meal? Sounds great. I get confused with cornmeal. Is polenta something different or could I use that for the recipe?
Here in the Northeast, cornbread is more typically used as the base for a turkey stuffing, but I’m sure in the American south and southwest, cornmeal is a typical part of the meal.
As for polenta, yes it is basically cornmeal, but I think it is generally a finer grind than “cornmeal” (since the point is to make a smooth mash); for my uses (cornbread, pizza, etc.) I usually look for a coarse or stone-ground variety, because often what you want with cornmeal, in addition to some sweetness, is that gritty texture.
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