As mentioned in yesterday's post on frog legs, one of the best (and easiest) dishes to serve alongside it is a simple skillet of cornbread. And although this is a supremely easy recipe to make -- so easy, in fact, that you may find yourself making it multiple times in one week if you're like me -- you'll need one essential, crucial piece of kitchen equipment to do so.
A cast-iron skillet is one cooking tool that absolutely no kitchen should be without. Aside from being terrifically inexpensive, they last forever with proper care and can be used to do everything from frying an egg to baking brownies. A good cast-iron skillet can be your greatest multi-purpose item.
Whatever you do, don't go out and drop $90 on a brand-new Le Creuset skillet. I love Le Creuset and have a Dutch oven of theirs that I would lug out of my house along with a family photo album in the event of a terrible inferno, but you're getting ripped off if you buy a skillet for anything more than $20. Even $15 will get you a good Lodge skillet from Walmart or Academy. Yes, I am suggesting that you buy cooking equipment from a sporting goods store.
When you get it home, season the snot out of that sucker. Even if it says that it's pre-seasoned, it won't hurt to season it properly. To season it, simply coat it liberally with vegetable oil and put it in the oven for an hour at 350 degrees. Done!
My mother has a skillet that she uses on a regular basis which once belonged to my great-grandmother; I am not kidding about the unbelievable properties of these simple little skillets as long as you keep them clean and oiled. Just make sure to never use soap on it, keep it clean of debris after use (a little salt or steel wool to clean any bits off) and remember to oil it up before putting it away. It will last you virtually indefinitely, and will likely outlive you.
This was originally adapted from an Alton Brown recipe, but has been tweaked over the years to its present state. The cornbread is incredibly moist thanks to the creamed corn, and plenty fluffy thanks to the baking soda. Buttermilk is a must, as the acid helps the baking soda to react and rise. It also gives the cornbread a pleasant tanginess that offsets the sweetness of the sugar and creamed corn, so don't substitute regular milk here.
Creamy, Dreamy Cornbread Serves 4 (at 2 pieces each)
- 2 c. stone-ground yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbs sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/4 c. buttermilk
- 2 eggs
- 1 1/2 c. creamed corn
- 1 1/2 Tbs vegetable oil
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Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place a well-seasoned (good and juicy) cast-iron skillet into the oven while it preheats.
In one bowl, combine the cornmeal, salt, sugar, baking powder and baking soda and whisk to combine. In a another bowl, combine the buttermilk (I cannot stress enough how important it is to use buttermilk), eggs, and creamed corn and stir until combined. Slowly add the dry ingredients (I do three separate additions, stirring well in between) to the liquid ingredients and stir to combine.
Remove the cast-iron skillet from the oven. Carefully add vegetable oil (please don't use olive oil, FYI) to the cast-iron skillet and then pour the batter into the skillet. Bake until the cornbread is golden brown and springs back upon the touch, about 25 minutes. Because your skillet is well-seasoned, the cornbread will slip right out and onto your plate.
The cornbread can be served on its own, but I prefer it as a side dish or dessert. As a dessert, it's especially good for folks who don't like anything overly sweet: Simply serve it warm with a few pats of butter and a drizzle of honey on top.