Butter melting on a slice of Perfect Cornbread
Any good Southern cook worth her weight in Crisco can stir up a fitting pan of cornbread, worthy of all the purple hull peas, fried okra, butter beans, sliced tomatoes, fried eggplant, cooked squash and new potatoes that might have the honor of residing on the same plate with this crispy delicacy. But there are new cooks rattling the pots and pans every day. This recipe is for the new cook of any region seeking an authentic quick bread to serve with soup, beans or meat and three. Or maybe the experienced cook who can't get the cornbread to pop out of the skillet without sticking. If it starts out in a packet or a little blue box, it is only an imitator hoping to achieve greatness.
I have mentioned Perfect Cornbread previously, Pea Salad for a True Southern Repast 9-1-13. The original recipe came from a cookbook that looks like a checkerboard tablecloth which was a wedding present of my Mother's. This is the only recipe I ever use. I don't mess with perfection. I learned the secret to good cornbread at my Mamaw's knee. It's all about the sizzle, two sizzles to be exact.
1 cup of flour
1/4 cup of sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tsp baking powder
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 cup of milk
1/4 cup of shortening
Yes, this recipe does have sugar in it. Now I am a die-hard Southern cook, except in this case, but a little bit of sugar only sweetens the pie and will get you lots of compliments. Infact, I have never made it without.
Add flour, sugar, salt and baking powder to a mixing bowl and mix up. Put your cast iron skillet on the stove over a good heat, a bit more than medium. Add the shortening to the skillet so it can get melt and get hot. Add cornmeal to the flour mixture and mix. Add two eggs and 1 cup of milk to the dry mixture, mixing everything together very well with a fork.
Watch your grease. (Do not ever walk away from a stove when heating shortening.) When it is hot (just learn by doing) pour the hot grease from the skillet into the wet mixture. You should hear a sizzle (1). The picture to the right is just after pouring the hot grease into the mix.
Put the skillet back on the hot stove and add a good dollop of shortening. This will melt while you are stirring the hot shortening into the wet cornbread mixture. When the second round of shortening is hot, pour the cornbread mix into the skillet, still on the stove. You should hear a sizzle (2).
Using a mitt, put the skillet of cornbread into the oven at 425 for 20 minutes. It will be done but you might want to check it and turn down oven (5-10 degrees) if too brown on top. Using a mitt, remove from the oven and flip the skillet of cornbread onto a cutting board or heavy plate. And then using another plate, flip it back to the desired side. You can play with that. If you have done all of this correctly or even mostly correct, it will jump out of the skillet for you! Enjoy!
Now that you can make Perfect Cornbread you can move to Lesson 2, Perfect Cornbread Dressing.
Perfect Cornbread hot from the oven!
The backside of Perfect Cornbread
For even more background on Cornbread, check out my post,
The Nascar Cornmeal Conspiracy 11-11-13.