Thursday, November 4, 2021

Hot Skillet Cornbread

Food has always been a love language in my family. From my earliest memories, I recall the rallying call it represented to gather, nourish, strengthen bonds and demonstrate affection.  

My grandmother, in particular, would often call us and read off her dinner menu, ending with the invitation to come over and share in the bounty. It was code for, “I want to see you and spend time with you and share my love for you.”  And no few times, whether the menu was on the grander scale, or relatively modest, skillet cornbread was on the menu.  

I can still see her pulling a hot cast iron skillet from the oven with the same common touch that one might give to grabbing a pre-made dish from the fridge.  It was such a common occurrence that it’s forever etched in my memories—and heritage.  Similar scenes were recreated by my mom in our home, albeit on a less frequent rotation due to working mom life.)

There were other variations of cornbread that my grandmother served, like cracklin cornbread, prepared stovetop with cracklins mixed into the cornmeal batter that was fried in hot oil, yielding a savory pancake-esque bite, only crispier and more satiating.  Still, my favorite was the hot skillet cornbread that often stood, very well I might add, on its own as the bread course—making everything from collard greens and pot likker, to fried chicken, chili and more, that much better.  Hot, buttery, tender crumbs, with crispy a top and edges, have a way of doing that.

And then there was the reincarnation into phenomenal cornbread dressing, another family staple, served mostly during the holidays.  As traditions go, I've kept this one alive with my slightly adapted iteration of this forever family (and cultural) staple in my kitchen.  From stuffed cornbread, to cornbread dressing, to herbed cornbread madeleines, or on its savory, delicious lonesome, cornbread will always have a place in my heart and home.

I’m sharing this recipe with all the sentiments of love and togetherness that it represents for me, and I hope you take it, enjoy it, and create your own fond memories filled with…

Happy Eating!

Hot Skillet Cornbread

1 stick (8 ounces) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 cup flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 large eggs 

Heavy drizzle of honey (optional)


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Add butter to the skillet and place in the preheated oven for approx. 8 minutes, until butter is melted and golden.  

While the butter is melting and the skillet is heating through, in a medium bowl, add the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt, and stir to combine. To the large bowl, add the milk, eggs and honey (if using). Toss in the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and stir until just combined. 

Pour or spoon the batter into the skillet.  Bake for 20-22 minutes, until the cornbread is golden brown and the edges are browned (don't overbake!).  Remove from the oven, serve warm and enjoy! 

Baker's Note: Cornbread used for dressing can be made ahead and stored in the freezer for up to a month.


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