A few weeks back, I scored a hell of a deal on a legendary Lodge cast iron skillet and it has been screaming for a pat of butter and the sizzle of cornbread batter since I brought it home. Sure, I’ve made plenty of cornbread in the past but they usually fall into the category of nothing special OR unconventional, but really just trying too damn hard to be sophisticated.
Cornbread needn’t be fussy or fancy and a good one is buttery, moist, golden and with a hint of sweetness. So why did it take me weeks to land on the right recipe? Because simple food can be the hardest to perfect.
This recipe is a result of thorough cornbread research and to answer a question you’re surely thinking: Yes, I AM crazy and care enough about baking to set up Google Alerts for “cornbread.” God forbid I miss any breaking cornbread developments.
I found your classic variations: Johnny Cake, Spoon Bread, and the somewhat distant and delicious fried relative – Hushpuppies. But I also discovered a new variety – Corn Pone.
Go ahead…just laugh it out, I’ll wait.
Ridiculous name aside, corn pone is made from a coarser corn meal and often fried in some combination of oil, butter, and bacon fat. According to Wikipedia, “corn pone” can also be used as a derogatory term meaning, “one who possesses certain rural, unsophisticated peculiarities” or “rural, folksy or hick characteristics.”
Think of how much more efficiently all those suburban, McMansion kids in Richmond’s West End could have insulted my subtle Applachian twang in the 4th grade? Childhood teasing aside, I couldn’t be prouder that to some I may show signs of certain rural, unsophisticated peculiarities.
Afterall, as the trucker cap I scored at a gas station outside of Elkins proudly says, “It’s hard to be humble when you’re from West Virginia.”
Ok, back to cornbread. I stumbled upon a corn pone recipe in the aforementioned WV Junior League cookbook that called for molasses and a bit of bacon fat in the batter that I was sure could do no wrong. Sadly, it was dense and tasteless. So I went back to basics and settled on a recipe that included an ingredient familiar to the cornbread of my youth – creamed corn. Say what you will about canned food, I surely don’t eat a lot of it, but after tasting the end result, I’ll let it slide this time. And maybe next time I’ll go a step further and make homemade creamed corn which would no doubt be even better. I threw in some sharp cheddar cheese, having visions of the wonderfully crunchy crust it would form as it hit the hot pan. If you find yourself cast iron skillet-less, an 8 x 8 square baking pan should do the trick.
And for those still enjoying the childish amusement that is the word corn pone, I offer you this.
1 cup self-rising white cornmeal
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup cream-style corn
1/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, coarsely shredded
1 Tb unsalted butter
1. Place cast iron skillet or pan in the oven. Preheat to 400 degrees.
2. Combine all ingredients, except the butter, in a medium bowl and whisk gently, just until blended and free of any lumps.
3. Remove the pre-heated skillet from the oven and toss in the butter. Swirl butter around and up the sides of the pan to coat, until melted. Pour in the cornbread batter and spread evenly. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool slightly in the pan on a wire rack and serve warm.