" For, lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone; the flowers appear on the earth; the time of the singing of birds is come, and the voice of the turtle is heard in our land. " Song of Solomon

January 5, 2009

The Envelope Please: The Secret Cornbread Ingredient

In my black bean soup post I mentioned fried cornbread and a secret ingredient. I got the 'recipe'--not really a recipe but more of a method--from Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook. The fried part appealed to me but not the 'secret' ingredient. But as a general rule the first time I make something I try to follow the basic recipe. Am I glad I did. I was pleasantly surprised. Being a Southerner at heart I like good ole' deep south cornbread and none I've ever seen or eaten had this in it. But Ms. Karon is a native North Carolinian so I figured she knew a thing or two about good cornbread.

So..here it is <<<>>>>: dried thyme leaves. Yep. Who'd a thunk it? Not me. Thyme is probably my favorite herb and one I'd never have thought of adding to cornbread. But oh my goodness..it is yummy.

I've made fried cornbread several times since finding this method because it's so quick and easy to make a small amount for one or two. If I were making cornbread for a crowd or at least 3 or 4 I'd bake it in the oven...but I imagine I'd still add the thyme.

Here's how you make it, excerpted from Jan Karon's Mitford Cookbook and Kitchen Reader page 351.

"Get out a bowl. Pour in some yellow self-rising cornmeal. About two cups. Add whole milk or buttermilk until the batter is nice and creamy--not runny and not dry, but creamy. Chop in some onions. add a pinch or two of thyme, salt and pepper. Add a teaspoon of good olive oil or bacon grease. Cover the bottom of your black skillet with olive oil or bacon grease and get it hot, but not smoking. Pour in the batter.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to turn the cornbread before it's ready. Peel up an edge and look under--is it crusty and brown? When it is, run your largest spatula under it and quick as a wink, turn it over. This will take practice. If it breaks don't worry, keep going. Add a little more oil or bacon grease if the cornbread looks dry. You want a crispy crust. When a small voice tells you it's ready , turn the skillet upside down over a platter.

Sprinkle with paprika, cut into wedges and serve slathered with butter. Resist eating the whole thing yourself."

I didn't sprinkle mine with paprika. Also, I didn't have self-rising corn meal either, so I used plain, adding 2 teaspoons of baking powder and a half-teaspoon of salt per cup. Since then I picked up some Martha White 'Hot Rize" Buttermilk Cornmeal Mix--my favorite--and used it instead of self-rising cornmeal. And--for the two of us I use one cup instead of the two Jan uses. One cup would make the equivalent of 6 muffins/servings.

I thoroughly enjoyed this cookbook, but especially the excerpts of Jan sharing her cooking and eating and life in general. They're the icing on the cake. If you get a chance to read it do so. Also, I love her Mitford series. I've read every book and was so disappointed when the series ended.
Note: My black iron skillet is in storage so I used a heavy non-stick skillet. Also instead of olive oil I used a high oleic safflower oil. And I used about a half teaspoon of dried thyme, crumbled in. Also--this is not meant to be fried corn cakes, like pancakes--but it's a big cake of cornbread--one big round, fried as a whole.
"....there have been many times when I have shed bitter tears, when if I had understood the situation better, I would have celebrated my good luck instead."


I am not a doctor and all information, suggestions, etc are my personal opinion only.