Saturday, March 10, 2012

Skillet Cornbread, Two Ways

I'm not sure how I got this far in life without a cast iron skillet. Since a dear friend gave me one for my birthday last month I have used it for flatiron steaks, pancakes, eggs, and two different batches of cornbread...and as I type I am imagining seared asparagus and sliced potato cake and grilled cheese sandwiches in my future.

If you're still on the fence, here are some suggested readings:
Mark Bittman's 2005 ode to cast iron
Herbivoracious' cast iron shout-out
Top 5 Reasons Why Cast Iron Is The Greenest Choice For Non-Stick Cooking
And for those who were holding out...state-shaped cast iron skillets! At last!

But this isn't a post about cast iron skillets.

Nope. It's all about corn bread. Ask a true southerner and s/he'll wax poetic about the super-moist savory version. But present unsweetened cornbread at any of my PA family gatherings and you'll never hear the end of it. So, being an equal opportunity cook, I thought it necessary to present two recipes that will cater to both schools of thought.

The first, given to me by the same friend who gave me the skillet, is savory and rich with a super-moist, chewy texture. It was delicious paired with a dinner of sausages and dark bitter greens, standing up well as the only starch of the meal.

The second, harvested from the Interwebs, is on the sweet side with a cakier consistency and a nice thick outer crust. I have eaten this one with salad for a few lunches this week and snitched a slice or two with breakfast. It's quite a bit lighter than the former recipe, so, for better or for worse, you'll be more likely to go back for seconds and maybe even thirds.

Kara's Grandma's (Savory) Cornbread

Serves 8-10

3 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1 large egg
1-1/4 cup buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Put the canola oil into a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet, and put it in the oven so it'll get hot while the oven preheats (15 minutes or so). You want the skillet and the oil to get piping hot, but not to smoke.

Use two bowls, one large and one small. In the large one, combine the dry ingredients. In the small one, combine the wet ingredients. Pour the liquid ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients. Use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix the wet and dry ingredients, using only a few swift strokes.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven. Pour the batter into it, then return it to the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cornbread has puffed up in the middle and is golden brown on top.

Let it sit for about 8 minutes before serving.

Someone Else's Grandmother's (Sweet) Buttermilk Cornbread (from

Serves 8-10

1/2 cup butter, plus more for buttering the skillet
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Grease a 9- or 10-inch cast iron skillet generously with butter.

Melt the 1/2 cup butter in a medium saucepan. Remove from the heat and stir in the sugar. Quickly add the eggs and whisk until well blended. Combine the buttermilk and baking soda and stir into the butter mixture. Add the cornmeal, flour, and salt to the saucepan and mix with a wooden spoon until the batter is well blended but still a bit lumpy. Pour the batter into the prepared skillet.

Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

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