Sometimes I wake up with a specific craving that has no obvious root. For example, on Saturday morning I woke up with a craving for cornbread. Where did that come from? Was it the fact that I’d been watching the Sean Brock episodes of “Mind of a Chef” at the gym? Actually, that was probably it–strike that first sentence–because in the episode I just watched, he harvested his own corn, shocked the kernels in liquid nitrogen, and made the most incredible-looking corn grits I’d ever seen. I didn’t have grits in my cupboard on Saturday morning, but I did have cornmeal, which is where this idea came from. Then all I had to do was find the right recipe.
Enter Alex Guarnaschelli. I find Alex to be one of the most fascinating figures in the food world. She straddles the divide between the snobby food elite (she made her bones working at Guy Savoy in France; her mother is a legendary cookbook editor) and the populist world of the Food Network. Somehow she keeps her footing, and her integrity, as she shares her mother’s recipe for pâté in her own cookbook (an impressive tome that I plan to buy someday) and then judges someone’s dish made with fruit-flavored sports drink on Chopped.
Her recipe for cornbread reveals the intelligence between everything she does. The ingredients start out familiar enough: cornmeal, flour, sugar (yes, sugar, I love cornbread with sugar and if you don’t, that’s fine, but stop judging! (oh and I can already anticipate your comments, “That’s not cornbread, it’s cake” I’ve heard it all, you won’t convince me so give up now)), kosher salt, baking powder, baking soda.
Then she ups the ante with the liquid ingredients: whole milk, buttermilk, 2 eggs, and almost a whole stick of butter melted. Yeah, she ain’t kidding around.
Pour those into the dry ingredients:
And you’re ready to rock n’ roll.
Now what makes this cornbread recipe extra special is that you cook it in a hot cast iron skillet. That’s why I titled this post “Skillet Cornbread.” What I did is I put the stick of butter in there, put it in the oven, and then when the butter was melted, I poured out most of it into the liquid measuring cup and left a healthy slick of it to keep the batter from sticking.
That goes into your hot oven and 25 minutes later, you have cornbread. And, as far as I’m concerned, it’s the best cornbread I’ve ever made. Crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, it’ll be my new go-to cornbread recipe from now on. Here’s a wedge of it with that morning’s improvised breakfast of sautéed broccoli and squash with a fried egg on top:
You’ve gotta serve it warm out of the skillet and slather every bite with some soft butter. Man, was that good stuff. I’m glad I had that not-so-mysterious craving and I’m glad that I found the right person to help me satisfy that craving.
Now have at it: yell at me about the sugar. I’ve got my new favorite cornbread here to protect me.
Recipe: Skillet Cornbread
Summary: Adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli’s recipe.
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 1/4 cups coarsely ground cornmeal (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
- 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/3 cup whole milk
- 1 cup buttermilk (well-shaken)
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- Preheat your oven to 425 F.
- Now this is very easy. Are you ready? Put the stick of butter in a cast iron skillet and put the skillet in the hot oven while you do everything else. Here’s everything else: whisk together the dry ingredients in a big bowl. Whisk together the wet ingredients in a big measuring cup.
- Now check that butter, it should be melted. Carefully (with an oven mitt) remove the skillet from the oven, pour most of the melted butter into the wet ingredients, whisking while you do so the butter doesn’t cook the eggs–leave about a tablespoon behind. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, whisk until just combined, and then pour the whole mixture back into the hot cast iron skillet.
- Bake in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes until a knife comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes then serve it warm with more butter. Yum.
Preparation time: 10 minute(s)
Cooking time: 25 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 12
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